A month from its elective conference, the apparent forces of change within the ANC are attempting to discredit Zuma's re-election campaign.
Following a Sunday Times report which revealed prosecutors were not in favour of dropping corruption charges against Zuma in 2009, several independent sources told the Mail & Guardian there are moves to discredit President Jacob Zuma ahead of the December elective conference in Mangaung.
“There has been a firm decision taken to try and show the ANC who they will be electing if he [Zuma] gets another term,” one source, who ask to remain anonymous, told the M&G.
The report details the existence of 300 pages of evidence suggesting that corruption charges against Zuma should not have been dropped based on the emergence of the infamous spy tape recordings.
In April 2009, then acting director of Public Prosecutions Mokatedi Mpshe announced the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision not to prosecute Zuma, based on the existence of secret recordings between former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka and ex-boss of the now defunct Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy.
Mpshe claimed that recorded conversations between the pair clearly indicated a political plot to prevent Zuma from being elected as ANC president in 2007 at the Polokwane elective conference.
Zuma is now hoping to be re-elected in December, but is facing a possible leadership challenge in Mangaung from his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, who is seen as the favoured candidate for the forces of change movement within the ANC.
The source – who is said to be close to the drive to have Motlanthe’ elected – would not confirm how the transcripts were obtained, but suggested more “damaging documents” were currently at the disposal of those seeking Zuma be replaced at Mangaung.
“It’s clear we need a leadership change. It’s not a question of why but rather how we are going to make it happen,” the source said.
But one source claimed the only reason the opposing camp is employing such tactics was to neutralise the “unmitigated intimidation” undertaken by those who want to see Zuma re-elected. “Everyone is guilty of this nonsense,” the source said.
In the run up to the December conference there have been reports that those campaigning for Zuma intimidated ANC members.
Last week, an armed gang wearing T-shirts bearing Zuma’s face reportedly stormed an ANC branch meeting and threatened to shoot members if they did not nominate the ANC leader for re-election.
The report comes at a sensitive time for the president, as he faced a barrage of criticism following reports that over R200-million of public funds was spent upgrading the president's rural homestead in Nkandla.
Both the presidency and Zuma’s personal lawyer refused to comment on the Sunday Times report.
"This is currently being handled in court, so we are not in a position to comment at this stage," Zuma"s spokesperson Mac Maharaj told the M&G.
The president’s lawyer, Michael Hulley echoed Maharaj's statement. "The matter is under judgment, so it would be improper for me to say anything for the moment," he said.
In early November Hulley conceded for the first time that he was in possession of the tapes and transcripts – but categorically stated that he would not part with them.
In March, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the NPA must release reduced transcripts of the tapes to the DA. But Hulley cited a 2009 confidentiality agreement between Zuma and the NPA as the reason for not releasing them.
The ANC also dismissed the Sunday Times report, claiming it was not based on anything "official" from the NPA.
"All of those e-mails and documentation, it could just be opinions from disgruntled NPA staff,” ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza told the M&G.
"There was overwhelming evidence of a political conspiracy that led to the charges against president Zuma being dropped."
Khoza added it was "suspicious" that these allegations are surfacing in the run up to the Mangaung elective conference and that the source of the leaked report could have "ulterior motives".
"These dirty campaigning tricks are signs of elements who want to bring chaos to the organisation and nothing else," he said.
Khoza also said the ANC won't be "chasing shadows" in an attempt to discover who the source of the leaked report is.
"It is an issue but we won’t be investigating at this stage. ANC branches are not so naïve to be swayed by sensational newspaper reports. They will choose the leadership they want and not someone else’s choice in Mangaung," he added.
Will the NPA bring charges against Zuma?
The legal presciption on criminal charges is 20 years. This means that two decades must pass before it is impossible to charge Zuma.
Technically, Zuma could still be charged," advocate Zola Majavu told the M&G. "The question is whether or not the NPA has the stomach or the political will to bring charges against him."
Majavu added that Zuma would have been assured of not facing charges again, had the NPA brought a stay of prosecution to the case.
"It was their decision not to do so in 2009, so we now sit with the possibility of charges being brought forward again."