30/01/2018 08:32 SAST | Updated 30/01/2018 09:33 SAST

Ramaphosa Must Keep Zuma Inside The Tent

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa is unlikely to push hard for Zuma's exit ahead of state of the nation address.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma stand before the state of the nation address at the opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 11, 2016.

"It would be very difficult for the current president [President Jacob Zuma] to deliver the state of the nation address," says a senior member of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa's team. "He has become a divisive figure. And his state of the nation addresses have not been turned into a vision or programme. If [Zuma] delivers the address, you lose an opportunity to galvanise the country."

He adds, "[President] Zuma does not have the support of the ANC caucus. It would be ideal if he leaves before. But there is no indication of that [happening]. He's fighting every step of the way."

Last week, Zuma picked up the tempo of his fight-back and revealed in a visit to top-performing schools in Nkandla that he fears "prosecution for building his father's house" in Nkandla. At the weekend, his two closest allies on the party's powerhouse top six committee of officials, secretary-general Ace Magashule and his deputy Jessie Duarte, said news of Zuma's imminent political death was exaggerated.

Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jesse Duarte, deputy secretary-general of the ANC.

Duarte told City Press that Zuma would serve out his constitutional term, which is only set to end ahead of the 2019 election. When Ramaphosa keeps stressing that Zuma will get an "exit without humiliation, he means for President Zuma to step down without being forced to".

Parliament is about to put the finishing touches on new impeachment rules this week, and the ANC parliamentary caucus is led by chief whip Jackson Mthembu, who is a Ramaphosa lieutenant. City Press reported that the ANC had taken the extraordinary step of agreeing to each party having an equal vote on the impeachment committee -- the party's always chosen proportional voting, as this favours its large majority.

However, at this point it appears unlikely that Ramaphosa will take a hard line on Zuma's exit, as "this is a negotiated transition and there is no template for how it should happen", says the member of his team. He adds: "It will be difficult to do things 'big bang'. There was no outright victory [at the ANC's Nasrec conference]. You don't have the victors on the inside and the losers on the outside. We have to keep the different parts in the tent."

Making sure the tent does not catch fire means it is likely that Zuma will, in fact, deliver the state of the nation address next week.