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06/02/2018 10:53 SAST | Updated 06/02/2018 10:53 SAST

EDITOR'S NOTE: Z-Day Is Here, But Can The ANC Pull The Trigger?

The ANC's NEC has never been in a stronger position than it is now to remove President Jacob Zuma. Can it actually finish the job?

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Members of the ANC's national executive committee arrive for a meeting in December 2017. They will have to decide President Jacob Zuma's fate.

There surely can be no other outcome to the meeting of the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) on Wednesday other than a decision to remove President Jacob Zuma from his position as head of state.

The steady, excruciating and frustrating build-up to this moment, a process which has wound its way from the Nkandla scandal through the chaos in the national assembly, the Constitutional Court, Saxonwold, the municipal elections to the #GutpaLeaks emails, will finally come to a head in Cape Town.

His strategy to remove Zuma has been calculated and meticulous, with his agents and operators carefully building the case for a recall.

There have been numerous attempts to remove Zuma, including at the party's executive committee and in Parliament, but all have fallen short. The ANC has defended Zuma for years and years, despite the mountain of evidence that screamed to high heaven how bad his misrule was not only for the country, but for the ANC itself.

Minister after minister marched to his defence, every formation in the party declared itself Zuma's defender, and the state was repurposed to serve and protect him.

SIPHIWE SIBEKO1 / Reuters
Then ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe addresses the media on 20 September 2008 after the party decided to fire Thabo Mbeki as president.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has been part of the Zuma leadership since 2012. He has seen Zuma's handiwork up close and started to actively oppose the president in 2015, after the highly questionable removal of Nhlanhla Nene as minister of finance.

He won the ANC leadership contest despite a vicious assault on his campaign by a well-funded and cynical opponent. His strategy to remove Zuma has been calculated and meticulous, with his agents and operators carefully building the case for a recall.

But it ain't over till its over. And it won't be over until Zuma addresses the country on the SABC and sends a letter to speaker Baleka Mbete resigning the presidency.

It is clear that Ramaphosa has the support of the party's national working committee, the smaller technocratic committee that called for a special meeting of the NEC. The next battle will be mustering enough votes in the 86-member NEC to support the axing of Zuma.

That battle hasn't been won yet, with a large chunk of the executive committee being Zumaïtes and a strong argument to be made that the recall of then-president Thabo Mbeki in 2008 did enormous damage to the ANC.

The ANC's NEC has never been in such a commanding position to remove Zuma than it is in now. Wednesday will be high noon in Cape Town -- but can the comrades pull the trigger?

Where Ramaphosa's agents have been discreet before, they have to be forthright this time around. Where they have been loyal cadres before, they have to be loyal South Africans this time. And where they have been mindful of ANC unity earlier, this time they will have to cut their losses.

The unknown factor is, of course, Zuma. When Mbeki was recalled in 2008, he publicly subjected himself to party discipline and vacated his office almost immediately.

Zuma has resisted every step of the way, and there is every reason to believe he will continue on the same path. He can, of course, defy the party's instruction and force a motion of no confidence, something the ANC wants to avoid.

The ANC's NEC has never been in a more commanding position to remove Zuma than it is in now. Wednesday will be high noon in Cape Town – but can the comrades pull the trigger?

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