ANC NEC Faces Pressure As Calls For Zuma To Step Down Mounts

PICTURE: BONGIWE MCHUNU

The new African National Congress (ANC) national executive committee (NEC) will sit for its first meeting of the year next week facing a raft of contentious political matters to sift through.

Following their election at the ruling party’s 54th national elective conference last year, the newly elected leaders are set to finalise preparations for the traditional January 8 statement to be delivered by the ANC’s president, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa.

A growing chorus for president, Mr Jacob Zuma to be removed as head of state ahead of the state of the nation address is also expected to weigh heavily on the meeting’s agenda of the new leaders.

Speaking to the New Age, Cosatu president Mr Sdumo Dlamini, an NEC member, referring to the “so-called” two centres of power challenge, said there were lessons to be learnt from the tug of war between the ANC at its Luthuli House headquarters and the government at the Union Buildings, which plagued the party in the acrimonious Polokwane conference.

“How we as leadership deal with this issue is going to be very difficult – but the leadership must learn how to deal with problems no matter how difficult,” Mr Dlamini said.

According to an independent political analyst, Mr Matlala Setlhalogile, “The call to recall president Zuma based on the “two centres of power” argument is grossly misplaced.

“It is grossly misplaced for two reasons. Firstly, it is misplaced because President Zuma must be recalled not because of the two centres of power, but because he has consistently failed to be a moral leader both the country and the ANC requires.”

“The state capture allegations and Nkandla debacle, among other things, are a textbook case of failure to uphold the constitution of the land and be moral leader as required by ANC values. He has catastrophically plunged the ANC into disrepute and in doing so eroding whatever little trust South Africans have in the ANC. This is the primary reason why President Zuma must be recalled,” Mr Setlhalogile said. 

“Secondly, the two centres of power argument is misplaced because the notion is not being properly applied. The two centres of power, as per a Polokwane resolution, dictates that the ANC president must be the presidential candidate when contesting elections. In 2014, when the ANC contested the general elections, [Mr] Jacob Zuma was the presidential candidate,” he said. 

“The presidential term from 2014 is still in effect. A two centres of power dilemma would most definitely be created if, in 2019, [Mr] Cyril Ramaphosa does not become the ANC’s presidential candidate in the general elections. The two centres of power gained great attention when [Mr] Thabo Mbeki wanted to contest for the ANC’s presidency in 2007 while he would have not be able to become the ANC’s presidential in 2009 elections. This is because he had served his constitutionally permissible two terms as state president,” he added. 

There has been growing calls to have Mr Zuma recalled. Earlier this year, the ANC’s stalwarts and veterans congratulated Mr Ramaphosa on being elected as the ANC president and called for Mr Zuma to step down, as they insist his removal will salvage the party’s reputation ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Also, civil society groups had also stepped up pressure on Mr Ramaphosa to produce an exit plan for Mr Zuma in return for their endorsement of his bid for the ANC presidency.

However, according to political analyst, Professor Steven Friedman, “Legally only Parliament can remove a President.  However, if the ANC NEC asks him to step down, it would be difficult for him to stay in office.”

“The NEC could ask ANC MPs to support a no confidence motion which would remove him. Whether this happens will depend on whether members of the faction which has supported him believe that he needs to step down,” he added. 

An independent political analyst, Mr Molifi Tshabalala agrees with Professor Friedman. According to Mr Tshabalala, “It would be foolhardy for Cyril Ramaphosa to push for Zuma’s recall without control of both the top-five and the NEC, within both of which a factional scale of power is fairly balanced.”

“Undoubtedly, Magashule and his deputy, Jessie Duarte, and other Gupta-aligned NEC members, such as ANCWL President Bathabile Dlamini, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Mosebenzi Zwane, will vehemently oppose a motion to recall the president. If the motion fails, Zuma will become sort of a lame duck president,” he said. 

The ANC’s mixed bag of top officials could also pose a challenge for the party’s top NEC, as wounds from last year’s bruising succession battle could threaten the unity compact agreed to at the elective conference last month at Nasrec.

“Delegates of the ANC in their attempts to do away with slate politics, chose this leadership because divisions and factions are not the way to go,” Mr Dlamini said.

“This leadership should be able to unite the ANC and the alliance. We are looking at them as one leadership collective given a mandate from conference.

“We trust them. They must work together and be guided by the resolutions of the ANC,” Mr Dlamini said. 

Mr Tshabalala said, “[Mr] Zuma’s recall should be secondary to [Mr] Ace Magashule’s election as secretary general on twofold.

“First, discuss a possible legal action of his disputed election. Second, discuss who should replace him as Free State premier because an SG position is a full time job. These should be first items on a first NEC meeting, not [Mr] Zuma’s recall,” Mr Tshabalala said.