The Two Centres Of Power And Zuma’s Recall – Elusive Logic And A Case Of Self-Defeating Sophistry

Zuma’s shenanigans, that have at least been audaciously defended, are enough reason for the ANC to ask him to tender his resignation as state president. There is no legally binding process that enables the ANC to enforce a recall of the president. The ANC relies solely on the incumbent to honour the decisions and wishes of the organisation, writes MATLALA SETLHALOGILE 

The ANC’s 2017 elective conference is done and dusted. Jacob Zuma, by virtue of the fortunes of his preferred candidate, finds himself in the wrong side of the conference’s electoral outcomes. The knives are out for him and the probabilities of a recall are higher than what they were pre-conference.

President Zuma’s recall, which to many seems warranted, is dependent on the power dynamics within the ANC’s NEC. Whether the attempt to recall Jacob Zuma will be successful or not, is not the focal point of this text. The crux of this text is to argue for which reasons, and for which not, to base the pursuit of Jacob Zuma’s recall.

Jacob Zuma has been running riot since his ascendance to the helm of the ANC in 2007. Since occupying both the Union Buildings and Mahlamba Ndlopfu in 2009, he has had free rein to provide his misleadership. His ascendency to the state presidency in 2009 gave president Zuma constitutionally derived authority over state machinery and institutions while the ANC presidency gave him the political power within the ANC.

It is needless to point out that prior to his election as the ANC president, and subsequently the state president, Zuma was already a tainted man. Having been disappointed as the country’s deputy president in 2005 by president Mbeki due to him being implicated in corrupt activities as a result of the Schabir Shaik fraud and corruption trial outcome, Zuma has been a man with little to no integrity at all.

The decisive blow to Zuma’s already in tatters integrity was the preferring of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges against him in December 2007. A year earlier, Zuma has just been acquitted of rape. Despite his acquittal, it is near impossible to successfully argue that the rape accusations did not bring the person of Jacob Zuma, together with the ANC which he was the deputy president of at the time, into disrepute. 

The ongoing legal tussle between Jacob Zuma and opposition parties together with civil society organisations regarding the reinstatement of the charges withdrawn by the Mokotedi Mpshe led NPA in 2009 has served as a constant reminder of Zuma’s disreputable nature. In addition to this tussle, there was the Nkandla saga in which president Zuma pleaded ignorance to the flouting of procurement processes and subsequent inflation of upgrade costs.

At some point, president Zuma claimed that he had taken a home loan from FNB to finance the construction of Nkandla. It had later surfaced that one Vivian Reddy, understood to be one of Zuma’s benefactors, has played a significant role in Zuma accessing funds for the initial phase of Nkandla’s upgrade. For an individual implicated in fraudulent and corrupt activities through his association with Schabir Shaik, president Zuma seems not to care about the repute of his person and the implications thereof to the ANC.

Further aggravating the severely depleted repute of Jacob Zuma are the state capture allegations. The state capture allegations are anchored in the equivocal nature of the relationship that exists between Jacob Zuma together with his family members and the Gupta brothers. The president has openly defended his friendship with the Guptas.

It must be assertively stated that the president, just like any other citizen, has the right to associate with anyone. However, he has the responsibility to manage the nature of that relationship in order to ensure that he is not compromised in any way, given the office he holds. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with Jacob Zuma. Getting entangled in questionable relationships with somewhat suspect characters seems to be one of his fortes.

The Nkandla saga led to the Constitutional Court judgment that found president Zuma to have broken his oath of office. Zuma’s antagonistic relationship with the law has also been exhibited through his grotty appointments of individuals in institutions that are tasked with ensuring that the rule of law is enforced and upheld. These appointments include that of Menzi Simelane and Shaun Abrahams, to mention but a few.

Zuma’s shenanigans, that have at least been audaciously defended, are enough reason for the ANC to ask him to tender his resignation as state president. There is no legally binding process that enables the ANC to enforce a recall of the president. The ANC relies solely on the incumbent to honour the decisions and wishes of the organisation.

The above-cited rascality by Jacob Zuma, a sample from many instances, is enough to get Zuma recalled. This rascality is enough to get Zuma recalled purely based on the values of the ANC and the ANC’s constitution. The ANC values are quite explicit on requiring members to be selfless in their dedication to attaining the objectives of the organisation. Moreover, the ANC constitution, Rule 25, clearly stipulates how members should carry themselves.

The arms deal debacle together with the Nkandla saga and the state capture allegations are a clear exhibition that there is nothing selfless about president Zuma’s [dis]service to South Africans. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that president Zuma has plunged the ANC into disrepute more than anyone else since his ascendency to the Union Buildings.

The Public Protector’s Secure in Comfort report indicated that president Zuma unduly benefitted from the Nkandla upgrades. These upgrades were as a result of the office he holds. This undue benefit, derived from the office held by president Zuma, means that he has transgressed Rule 25.17. 8 of the ANC constitution. Likewise, the questionable relationships with certain individuals and groupings that president Zuma has vociferously defended have, without a doubt, brought the ANC into disrepute. In this instance, he has transgressed Rule 25.17.4.

There has been many other instances where president Zuma, through his actions or utterances, has brought the ANC into disrepute.  Given the seniority of Jacob Zuma within the ranks of the ANC and him being the party representative entrusted with the most responsibility in government, it is expected that his demeanour will have a direct reflection on the ANC. Regrettably for the ANC, that reflection is at the opposite end of positive. The ANC’s repute and credibility have taken a severe beating during Jacob Zuma’s reign.

This reality is sufficient to get Jacob Zuma recalled from the highest office in the land. However, some among the ANC and its alliance partners have let logic elude them by opting to base their call for president Zuma’s recall on an expediential argument that will in future prove to be detrimental to the ANC and the country. With that said, this is not really surprising given the ANC’s knack for complicating seemingly straightforward issues.

Basing the call for president Zuma’s recall on the two centres of power principle is grossly misplaced and might plunge both the ANC and the country into a state of calamity in the future. It indisputable that since the ANC’s electoral conference in December 2017 the ANC, as a governing party, has one individual serving as party president and one as state president. As such, sophists are taking advantage of this development.

If the appropriation of this development through sophistry proves to be successful, it could spell political instability for the country in the future. This is assuming that the ANC will retain electoral power going forward.

A standing ANC resolution from the Polokwane conference in 2012 stipulates that the ANC president shall be the ANC’s presidential candidate for the country’s elections. This resolution was taken as a means to avoid the two centres of power debacle.

The lack of alignment between the ANC’s elective conferences and the country’s general elections is potentially a source of the confusion that some among the ANC and its alliance partners are more than happy to embrace. The reality is, when South Africans took to the polls to elect a national government in 2014 Jacob Zuma was the party president and the ANC’s candidate. This was also the case in 2009.

The ANC stuck to its Polokwane resolution. The tenure of the government elected in 2014 is still in effect. By ignoring this simple reality, the call for the recall of president Zuma based on the two centres of power principle seems to be rather disingenuous. Should a recall based on this reasoning materialise, a precedent would be set.

This precedent would be catastrophic to South Africa. It should be noted though that the precedent would only be ruinous to the country if the ANC continues to retain electoral power. But then again, the two centres of power principle is only applicable if the ANC is in power. The recall based on this argument would mean that South Africa would experience a leadership change after every ANC elective conference.

This would mean that the country would have a new president, who is likely to alter the cabinet, after every ANC elective conference. This would mean that the country would have two sets of executive leadership for every government tenure. This will inadvertently jolt state institutions and in doing so hamper the effectiveness of the state. This probable development does not augur well for the country.

It is for this very reason that South Africans should implore the political actors not to advance this flawed reasoning in their pursuit for a Jacob Zuma recall. There are more cogent reasons why Jacob Zuma must be recalled, but the two centres of power is hardly one of them. ANC leaders and their alliance partners should desist from employing “by any means” mentality. This would be a classic example of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

Setlhalogile holds a Masters in Politics from the University of Johannesburg. He is an independent socio-economic and socio-political analyst and a research consultant. He also lectures Politics. @Matlala_S

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