The pitched battle, as it is described by eNCA political commentator Karima Brown, between the captured faction of President Jacob Zuma and the rest – who want the Gupta-aligned ruling faction removed from power appears to be petering out. Those opposed to Zuma are caving in. In normal ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe’s style, he spoke with two voices over the cabinet reshuffle drama. It is believed that Mantashe, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC treasury general Zweli Mkhize apologized for expressing misgivings about the dismissal of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Now the political focus falls on a possible vote of no confidence in parliament on April 18 and if any ANC MPs defect to vote for a vote of no confidence. But even this now seems unlikely although the South African Communist Party is still holding out its position that President Zuma should resign. Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has too spoken out about corruptive forces taking over government. Cape Messenger editor Donwald Pressly writes
5 April 2017 – The African National Congress national working committee has rejected calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down and for all accounts three leading dissenters, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and Treasurer General Zweli Mkhize have apologised for not toeing the party line.
Indeed, at an extended press conference held by the ANC secretary general, he said it had been “a mistake” to publicly voice unhappiness over the cabinet reshuffle. Mantashe had told media on Wednesday that the list of new cabinet members – announced in the early hours on Friday morning by President Zuma – was “developed elsewhere”.
“This reshuffle was not done in consultation with the ANC, we were given a list that was done elsewhere and it was given to us,” said Mantashe to Business Day. On Wednesday, his story changed. His rather laborious explanation for the change in attitude was based, he said, on the misunderstanding about the fake intelligence report being the basis of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s removal from office.
The National Working Committee meeting accepted, that President Jacob Zuma’s broken relationship with Gordhan was sufficient grounds to fire him. It now appears that the previously unhappy three are now standing firmly behind President Zuma – at least for now.
The Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has been behaving in an extraordinary fashion for some time. During the entire crisis of the last week, he finally made a oblique reference to having to unify to get rid of “greedy people”. Speaking at the Aryan Benevolent Home fundraising gala dinner, the deputy president said – in passing – that the current political developments were part of a process of renewing political leadership “and getting rid of greedy people”. He was widely quoted – in separate interviews – as also saying that it was “unacceptable” to boot out Gordhan. “That I find totally, totally unacceptable… that a person who has served our country with such distinction would do something like that. It reminded me of my own situation in 2001, when there was an intelligence report that I was involved in a plot to remove then President (Thabo) Mbeki… it disturbed me greatly.” On that occasion Ramaphosa had run to former President Nelson Mandela who said he would handle the matter.”
Ramaphosa had said that Zuma had not consulted the ANC’s leadership. “The president has effected (put into effect) his cabinet reshuffle. Before doing so, he met ANC officials (a reference to the Top Six which includes Mantashe, national chair Baleka Mbete, deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte, Mkhize and Mantashe as well as the president). It was just a process of informing us of his decision,” Ramaphosa told SABC TV news.
Ramaphosa sent out a media statement on Saturday, 1 April entitled “Deputy President Ramaphosa rejects fake suggestions of his resignations – 01 April 2017”. It reported that he had “today, 1 April 2017, rejected the spread of falsehood and misinformation that he has resigned from his official position as the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa. There is no truth to the dissemination of this falsehood.” It went on in this bizarre fashion: “Deputy President Ramaphosa remains in his position as Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa and that of the ruling party. We reiterate his view that he will remain in government to serve the people in the realisation of the national objective of pushing back the frontiers of poverty, unemployment and inequality.” The statement further reported that … In this regard Deputy President Ramaphosa on Friday 31 March 2017, in Bloemfontein, said “…I am staying to serve our people in government. I made my views known. There are quite a number of other colleagues and comrades who are unhappy about this situation, particularly the removal of the Minister of Finance who was serving the country with absolute distinction, with great ability, and he has proven that he is a talented person…” The statement was issued in the names of his spokespeople Ronnie Mamoepa and Terrence Manase.
So Ramaphosa’s capitulation is complete. He is, as Americans say, “not going nowhere”. Former African National Congress MP and now leading light in the SA First Forum, Vytjie Mentor, posted on Facebook today: “I told you Cyril is a coward.”
As for Zweli Mkhize, much mentioned as a possible alternative candidate for the “good guys’ – if there are any in the ANC elected ranks anymore – as president of the ANC one day, has also done a volte face.
Mkhize suggested that Zuma had pretty much gone on his own tack. He is quoted from a statement as saying that “unlike previous consultations which take place with senior officials of the ANC during such appointments, and changes to the composition of the national executive, the briefing by the President left a distinct impression that the ANC is no longer the centre and thus depriving the leadership collective of its responsibility to advise politically on executive matters. Ordinarily this is how leadership takes collective responsibility for decisions made.”
It is suggested in The Times that elements in the ANC national working committee called for the three – including Mkhize – to apologise. It is not clear whether this actually happened, but it is clear that they did, indeed, back down on their resistance to the way the reshuffle of 20 members of the executive was carried out by Zuma.
Meanwhile, Peter Attard Montalto of Nomura has suggested that there is a slim chance of Zuma ‘exiting’ the political stage. A vote of no confidence in parliament would probably not muster the 201 votes in the national assembly – as it was unlikely that members of the ANC would abstain or stay away in sufficient numbers or would side with the opposition. A no-confidence vote would see most opposition parties voting together and maybe one or two smaller ones that in reality are strongly aligned to the ANC (and Zuma especially) voting against, says Montalto. “We would see the ANC achieve a majority against the motion with maybe 210 votes or so (out of 400 in the national assembly), with a chunk of 30 ANC votes maybe abstaining. It is possible that we could see a simple majority vote for no confidence if there were a larger number of abstentions by ANC MPs, but this would not pass under the rules of the house and constitution.
The political focus now falls on the SACP members in the ANC caucus in parliament. It is believed there are fewer than 20 of them in all – but six of them are cabinet ministers including Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education and SACP secretary general, and another three are deputy ministers, including fired deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas.
What we do know is the deputy SACP secretary general Jeremy Cronin has expressed his party’s unhappiness with the reshuffle last week. His party, together with Cosatu – the other part of the tripartite alliance – have called on Zuma to resign. Cronin, interviewed on eNCA said the following: “We are not alone in this matter,” he said, noting that the integrity committee had also called on Zuma to resign. He said there had been a meeting on Tuesday where he believed the integrity commission had probably taken a similar position. “We have seen the rallies around the memorialising of Comrade Kathrada’s passing… and many other events that are happening. The party is not alone. We want to be connected up to this broad raged of alliance related forces and then a swider range of social movements.”
The Times reported that the SACP appears to retain its opposition to Zuma. Its spokesman Alex Mashilo said the SACP rejected “as baseless the allegation that the party leaked information from its bilateral engagements held last week with the ANC and thereby breached confidentiality commitment”. The party said the leak “clearly came from the ranks of the ANC … and sought to portray the SACP as if the party had agreed to the reshuffling of the former Finance Minister…” (Cape Messenger reports that the vote of no confidence is scheduled for 18 April)
Cosatu too said it had lost confidence in Zuma, but it is not clear how pivotal this opposition will be in ANC structures where it counts. The federatoin’s general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the ANC was capable “to fill that position (of President Jacob Zuma).” The president was “not indispensable” and Zuma should step down.
Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has spoken out against the Gupta family corrupting government. He said that if the judicial and investigatory arms of government were working properly those responsible for attempting to bribe axed deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas to take the finance job – to the tune of R600 million – should already have been jailed. Gordhan told a memorial service on Wednesday for Kathy Kathrada that it was imperative that he now speaks out.
But for all the noise from the alliance partners – and a little bit of noice from ANC insiders like Gordhan – it now looks like the pitched battle between the Zuma and the anti-Zuma faction is petering out. The Zuma faction appears, for the moment at least, to have won the upper hand.