23/02/2018 04:49 SAST | Updated 23/02/2018 04:51 SAST

Zuma May Be Gone, But His Friends Are Still Out There

Many of Zuma’s allies still remain in key positions within the party and Cabinet, while others have now become his harshest critics.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Ousted former president Jacob Zuma.


Jacob Zuma's presidency has come to an end, but the longevity of that era owed much to staunch support from within the ANC and its associated leagues.

Many of Zuma's allies still remain in key positions within the party and Cabinet, while others from his early days as head of state have now become his harshest critics.

Zuma announced his resignation last week after increasing pressure from his party for him to step down from office, making way for his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa.

But despite his exit, his faction still remains in the ANC. The list of those who kept Zuma's political aspirations alive – not even considering those who assisted in his fight against criminal charges, prosecution and dodging tax – is important.

Jacob Zuma waves to his supporters after being sworn in as president of South Africa in Pretoria. May 9, 2009.

The ANC in Parliament

Zuma survived five motions of no confidence in Parliament since 2016, thanks to the aid of his comrades in his party. These all came at times when successive scandals and court decisions were plaguing Zuma's reputation as president.

In March 2016, for example, opposition parties were outvoted in Parliament when the DA brought a motion of no confidence following Zuma's stunts with the finance ministry, replacing Nhlanhla Nene with the little-known Des van Rooyen and changing his mind four days later.

It was also around this time that former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas revealed that the Gupta family, in the company of Duduzane Zuma, had offered him the top finance job and a R600-million bonus to further their interests in the department.

A month later, the DA tabled a motion to impeach Zuma after the Constitutional Court found he failed to honour his oath of office regarding the Nkandla affair.

Former tourism minister Derek Hanekom also took up the battle against Zuma in the party's national executive committee in 2016. He failed.

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ANC MPs celebrate following the results of a vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma on August 8, 2017.

The patronage buffer

Over his tenure, Zuma effectively moved the centre of power to Luthuli House, which garrisoned his influence at the Union Buildings.

With a hand on each power structure, Zuma used his appointment clout to foster personal loyalties in strategic areas. He ballooned the size of the civil service and the executive, awarding his allies premierships and top Cabinet posts.

An example of this was seen throughout key provinces, where North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, Free State premier Ace Magashula and KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairman Sihle Zikalala emboldened support for Zuma in various regions.

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Ace Magashule and Jacob Zuma at a national day of prayer in 2010.

The leagues

The ANC's leagues played a big part in Zuma's political durability, acting almost as foot soldiers to rally support and protest against his detractors.

When former public protector Thuli Madonsela released her State Of Capture report, the ANC Youth League jumped to Zuma's defence, calling for it to be challenged.

Ironically, when he led the ANCYL, it was Julius Malema who defended Zuma during public appearances – most notably saying he would "die for Zuma" and endorsing Zuma's version of his relationship with Fezekile "Kwezi" Kuzwayo during his trial for rape. Malema was reported saying that Kuzwayo had a "nice time" with Zuma when he spoke to university students in 2009.

The ANC Women's League and the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans' Association (MKMVA) have also defended Zuma vigorously against his critics. When reports emerged last year that the Guptas had purchased a luxury Dubai mansion for the president, the ANCWL was among the first to attack the report. In a press conference last year, the MKMVA even defended the Guptas, saying they were conducting their business like all other South Africans.

The three groups also gathered around Zuma's preferred successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, during her presidential campaign and rallied support for her around the country.