Zuma vows to tap the leaks
President Jacob Zuma has declared war on ANC leaders who continue to leak confidential information to the media, triggering fear among some party members that it might result in their phone calls being monitored.
ANC insiders told the Mail & Guardian this week that Zuma had warned the party’s national executive committee (NEC) members last weekend that he would personally bring an end to the leaking of confidential information by ANC leaders.
Zuma’s tough stance on leaks has been interpreted by his challengers as a way of consolidating his powerbase and tackling those who are plotting against him.
In an interview this week, ANC NEC member Billy Masetlha confirmed the seriousness with which Zuma took the matter of leaks and said he supported the president.
“Our people [ANC leaders] have decided to become agents. Not that we have anything to hide. These people do not deserve to be in the leadership,” he said.
“The president [Zuma] said he would personally work out how to deal with the issue of the leaks.
He told us that we need to find a way to put an end to this and that anybody who goes further would be dealt with. He wants us to play by the book,” said Masetlha.
An NEC member who attended last week’s meeting told the M&G that a “paranoid” Zuma was so furious, he promised to personally deal with the leaking of confidential information.
“He told us that he would find a way to deal with this, like he did in the past when he was head of ANC intelligence,” said the ANC NEC member, who asked not to be named.
ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe this week told a media briefing that: “Those who leak information are like a snake that bites itself in order to heal. They are nothing but information peddlers. If you leak information [of the NEC to the media] you form a fifth column and are an agent of somebody else in the organisation.”
Hampering Zuma’s chances
Masetlha claimed that some ANC leaders were deliberately leaking information in an attempt to hamper Zuma’s chances of being re-elected ANC president during the party’s crucial conference in Mangaung next year.
“The campaign against the president is open. He is responding to those who are openly campaigning against him. Let’s not keep our heads in the sand,” said Masetlha.
Some ANC leaders believe Zuma is using the issue of leaks as a tactic to justify bugging their phones ahead of the ANC conference.
The M&G understands that Zuma believes the content of a secret report prepared by the former head of intelligence, Richard Mdluli, which claimed that top ANC leaders had met in Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal to plan to oust him. The names of ANC leaders mentioned in the intelligence report included Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, suspended police national commissioner General Bheki Cele, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile and ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa.
The party leaders are said to be close to suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, who is seen as leading a campaign to oust Zuma and replace him with his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe.
An ANC national working committee member questioned why Zuma would be worried about information leaks instead of focusing on and dealing with serious issues in the country such as unemployment and job creation.
“We are getting irritated with his political overviews which always focus on issues of discipline and not critical issues of growing the economy and creating much-needed jobs for our people.
“This is going too far. It is no longer discipline in the way we know it. He [Zuma] does not want his weaknesses to be exposed. Now he wants to listen to people’s phones.
“He [Zuma] wants to make it difficult for members of the party to assess leaders without fear. It means leaders can’t express themselves freely from now on. He is doing what Thabo Mbeki used to do. He [Zuma] wants people to regurgitate what he says,” said the ANC leader.
The party is on a knife-edge, waiting for the outcome of an appeal by Malema and other youth league leaders against their suspension.
The matter is before the party’s appeal committee, headed by Cyril Ramaphosa, who has confirmed receipt of the appeal papers but has not indicated when the committee will sit.