20/01/2018 09:39 SAST | Updated 20/01/2018 10:04 SAST

Zuma's Future: Balance Of Power Even As Camps Square Off

A team of the governing party’s national executive committee has been appointed to manage Zuma’s exit.

Rogan Ward / Reuters
South African President Jacob Zuma reacts during the closing address at the 54th National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Johannesburg, South Africa December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

President Jacob Zuma will leave office if the ANC believes he should, but he wants assurances on who will fund his legal suits, say confidantes who have seen him in the past weeks.

"His biggest nightmares are legal issues and costs," said the confidant.

A team of the governing party's national executive committee has been appointed to manage Zuma's exit after an attempt to raise a motion of no confidence in the president failed on Friday. The party has reached a consensus that he will be allowed to go gently into the night.

David Masondo, a highly regarded young Turk in the ANC, raised a motion of no confidence in Zuma at the party's NEC meeting and it was seconded by Ramaphosa teamster and party strongman Bheki Cele. The motion failed, say party insiders in favour of a negotiated exit for the beleaguered president.

Masondo is the party's fourth most popular national executive committee member while Cele is its 13th most popular. Their motion may have failed but its tabling has oomph and leverage over the head of state's exit as party president.

The ANC is in a marathon leadership meeting to elect its national working committee (which serves as the party's engine room) and to plot its priorities in a make or break year. The ANC's popularity levels have sunk to between 51% and 52%, according to research for the party. It faces its toughest national election in just over a year.

How soon will Zuma go? HuffPost SA has reported that ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and his team believe that Zuma should not deliver the state of the nation address on February 7 and neither should he be head of state when the budget is tabled on February 21. This means Zuma must be gone in just over two weeks.

The Ramaphosa transition team is clear in what needs to happen in party and state under the new leadership. But Zuma's departure is critical for the renewal and reconstruction agenda to gain momentum.

These two dates are seen as important events to galvanise the country with a post-capture spirit of renewal, say ANC leaders aligned to Ramaphosa. While Zuma's confidant says he wants to leave, there is a separate view in the party that the leader is battening down the hatches for a fight.

The election of the party's national working committee (NWC) shows that Ramaphosa's control of the ANC remains finely balanced. The president-in-waiting has said he won a beachhead – a small but strategic position from which to make changes. Has the NWC shifted that? Ramaphosa has significant support on the working committee which now becomes his interim transition team to drive change in the party and in government.

The balance of power in the NEC and now the NWC remains relatively even -- no camp can seemingly push for outright dominance or victory, which could mean protracted negotiations with concessions and small victories for either side in the offing. The NEC will hold its annual lekgotla on Saturday and Sunday. This will lead to further developments around Zuma's future before the weekend is over. Ramaphosa is supposed to depart for the World Economic Forum on Monday.

HuffPost's analysis of support on the NWC:


Lindiwe Sisulu

Naledi Pandor

Jeff Radebe

Angie Motshekga

Derek Hanekom

Ronald Lamola

Senzo Mchunu

Zizi Kodwa

Thandi Modise

Barbara Creecy

Thoko Didiza


Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Edna Molewa

Nomvula Mokonyane

Nathi Mthethwa

Tina Joemat-Pettersson

Dakota Legoete

Bathabile Dlamini

Nomaindia Mfeketo

Tony Yengeni