POLITICS
06/02/2018 05:58 SAST | Updated 06/02/2018 11:54 SAST

The Last Rites: How The Case For JZ's Removal Was Crafted

The ANC's highest decision-making body, the NEC, will on Wednesday decide President Jacob Zuma's fate. Z-Hour is here.

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ANALYSIS

President Jacob Zuma's elaborate and determined efforts to remain in office as head of state will on Wednesday face their sternest and possibly final test when the ANC's national executive committee will convene a special meeting to determine his fate.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's emissaries and organisers have over the last weeks systematically built a case for Zuma's removal and put in place procedures and protocols to ensure that the party is guided into a position where it will have to vote on Zuma's future. That vote will in all probability be held during the special meeting of the party's executive.

The three-pronged strategy was launched almost immediately after Ramaphosa took over the reins as ANC leader and entailed:

  1. Building a broad coalition of political, civic and local organisations by making personal visits to a range of leaders and establishing himself as the new party leader.
  2. Reaching out to international role players and clearly and unambiguously diagnosing the country's problems by identifying state capture and graft as the main issues.
  3. Keeping the ANC officials — the top six leaders — by and large in the tent and going through the motions by exhausting all available internal options.

Although the balance of power in the NEC has been precarious, with Ramaphosa-aligned members holding a slight advantage, it seems that the power shift away from Zuma that has seemingly occurred over the last few weeks has now given opponents of the president the numbers to force a successful "recall" vote. Part of the strategy by the Ramaphosa-aligned ANC leaders has been to ensure that their supporters control the executive committee, the national working committee and key subcommittee chairs.

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ANC members protest on Monday against President Jacob Zuma outside Luthuli House, the party's headquarters in Johannesburg.

The revelations about state capture at the Eskom inquiry in Parliament, the Hawks' and National Prosecuting Authorities' investigations into the Vrede dairy farm along with the Asset Forfeiture Unit's actions have apparently convinced some Zuma supporters that the game is up. Many now agree that Zuma must go. Rampahosa organisers firmly believe they have the numbers in the national executive committee to force Zuma to leave before the state of the nation address, less than three days away.

According to insiders the governing party is desperate to avoid an opposition-led motion against the president succeeding and would prefer to avoid it altogether.

It is clear according to the ANC's statement that the only issue on the executive committee's agenda will be Zuma's future and that his continued tenure can now be measured in hours rather than days and weeks. The party said the NEC will discuss "the transition between the fifth and sixth" governments — an issue that would only come into play when wholesale changes to Cabinet is being mooted.

Another crucial issue to be discussed, according to the statement, is pending actions in Parliament. This seemingly refers to the planned motion of no-confidence tabled by the EFF and which will be debated on the 22nd of this month, a day after the budget is brought to the National Assembly. According to insiders the governing party is desperate to avoid an opposition-led motion against the president succeeding and would prefer to avoid it altogether. If Zuma however thumbs his nose at an instruction by the NEC to resign, the ANC would want to table its own motion.

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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma at last week's Cabinet lekgotla in Pretoria.

Zuma's advisers told HuffPost last week that he is not going to accede to requests to resign and that he has a number of demands before he will agree to step aside. HuffPost also reported on Monday that Zuma was steadfast in his refusal to resign during a meeting Sunday night with party leaders. He told a delegation from the ANC's top six officials that he wants to know what he did to warrant such a sanction by the party. It was this intransigence which led to the meeting of the working committee and the decision to call a special meeting of the party's national executive.

According to the Constitution a president can leave office before his term ends if he resigns, if he is found to be unfit to carry out his duties or if a vote of no-confidence in him or his Cabinet is carried in the assembly.

The president is technically under no obligation to adhere to the ANC's instruction, if it chooses to remove him, and he can force the party to risk humiliation with a confidence vote in the National Assembly. Former president Thabo Mbeki resigned in 2008 after he was "recalled" by the party and subjected himself to party discipline. He immediately sent a letter of resignation to the speaker and vacated is his office days after the ANC's decision.

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Cyril Ramaphosa, Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma at Codesa on December 20, 1991, in Johannesburg.

According to the Constitution, a president can leave office before his term ends if he resigns, if he is found to be unfit to carry out his duties or if a vote of no-confidence in him or his Cabinet is carried in the assembly.

It is unclear whether the special NEC meeting will be held in Pretoria at the St. George's Hotel or in Cape Town. Khusela Sangoni, ANC spokesperson, told eNCA earlier that the drama around Zuma's future had led to "unecessary anxiety for the nation" and that the governing party wants to deal with the issue as soon as possible.