POLITICS
05/02/2018 11:41 SAST | Updated 05/02/2018 12:00 SAST

'What Have I Done?' Asks President Jacob Zuma

The meeting between President Jacob Zuma and ANC leaders was described as "tense and difficult".

President Jacob Zuma at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 28, 2018.
Tiksa Negeri / Reuters
President Jacob Zuma at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 28, 2018.

President Jacob Zuma resolutely refused to budge from his position as head of state during a fraught meeting between himself and ANC leaders on Sunday evening, asking his comrades: "What have I done?"

A delegation from the top six party officials visited Zuma at the presidential residence of Mahlamba'Ndlopfu in the Bryntirion ministerial estate close to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The meeting was described to HuffPost as "tense and difficult".

During the meeting, Zuma:

  • said he is not doing what Thabo Mbeki did in 2008;
  • demanded formal reasons why he should vacate the Union Buildings;
  • warned against a "counterrevolution", and
  • dismissed state capture allegations.

After Zuma dismissed his ANC colleagues, the party leadership called an urgent meeting of its national working committee (NWC) on Monday. It is scheduled to start at 2pm.

During the Sunday meeting, Zuma made it clear he will not resign. "I have not done what (former president) Thabo Mbeki did," he told his party comrades.

At the time of his ousting as head of state in September 2008, Mbeki was believed to be acting as a lone ranger who did not take direction from the party headquarters at Luthuli House, after he had lost the party presidency to Zuma in December 2007.

Zuma sent the top officials of the ANC packing. He told them that the ANC faced a "well thought-out counterrevolution", by which he meant that the party was being taken over as part of a strategy to contain it.

Zuma disavowed the narrative of state capture as it is unfolding in various inquiries at Parliament, calling it "conjecture".

Opponents of Zuma have now reached the end of their "procedure and protocol" strategy, whereby the party's new leadership tried all practical avenues in its attempt to convince Zuma to resign. This included numerous personal overtures, as well as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's public pronouncement that Zuma must not be humiliated.

The latest impasse has led to some anti-Zuma operatives pushing hard for Zuma's presidency to be ended within days.

There seems to be broad agreement in the anti-Zuma camp that a more forceful approach is now needed, with the party's working committee meeting on Monday expected to hear a report on Sunday evening's events before it will discuss a possible special meeting of its national executive committee.

The working committee does not have the power to recall a public representative such as the president; only the executive committee does. According to the party's constitution, the executive committee enters into an agreement with the party's deployees, so only it has the power to recall such people.

The challenge for Zuma's opponents is to swiftly reach consensus at the working committee, before tackling the logistics nightmare of convening an urgent executive committee meeting before the state of the nation address on Thursday.