Senior alliance leaders discuss Zuma's removal from office

Several SACP sources say there were ­discussions at their recent central committee meeting about the need to get rid of President Jacob Zuma. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Several SACP sources say there were ­discussions at their recent central committee meeting about the need to get rid of President Jacob Zuma. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Leaders from the ANC-led alliance this week rallied behind President Jacob Zuma, who faced yet another motion of no confidence, tabled by the Democratic Alliance in Parliament.

But behind the scenes senior alliance leaders were quietly discussing his removal from office, and other former loyalists were said to be turning against him.

The Mail & Guardian has reliably learnt that the ANC president was at the centre of discussions during last weekend’s central committee meeting of the South African Communist Party (SACP), with some leaders pushing for him to be recalled as president.

Senior SACP leaders who were apparently vocal in their call for Zuma’s removal included its central committee member and an ANC provincial executive committee member in Gauteng, Dipuo Mvelase, and the Eastern Cape SACP provincial secretary, Xolile Nqatha.

The SACP’s Gauteng chairperson, Joe Mpisi, was also said to be among the group, but on Thursday denied both that and that there were any formal discussion on Zuma’s shortcomings.

“Comrades were just talking about the implication of the court cases against Zuma during the break. As communists, we don’t hide our views,” said Mpisi. “I would have told you if that was the case. There was no discussion [about Zuma’s recall]. We received reports from the general secretary [Blade Nzimande]. The party would not hesitate to come out about that. We did it during Thabo Mbeki’s era.”

The ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, and the SACP’s first deputy general secretary, Jeremy Cronin, were among those who opposed the suggestion to recall Zuma, sources said.

Three senior SACP leaders, who all asked to remain anonymous, said central committee members raised their frustrations with Zuma’s many blunders and the issues he faces, including:

  • His decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister;
  • The Hawks investigation that has come to involve Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan;
  • The Economic Freedom Fighters’ Constitutional Court case on the Nkandla matter, in which judgment is looming; and
  • The DA’s high court case to review the dropping of corruption charges against Zuma, which was heard this week.

“There were heated debates on all these issues. Comrades are asking why should the SACP continue to provide a blind support to Zuma even when he has done nothing to benefit them,” said one central committee member.

Another central committee member said, although Zuma should be credited for having appointed several communist leaders to his Cabinet, the left was also unhappy that he off-loaded some communist leaders after the 2014 general elections and that most leaders from the left were being sidelined in the provinces.

SACP central committee leaders who were axed from Zuma’s Cabinet included former energy minister Ben Martins, former co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Lechesa Tsenoli and former communications minister Yunis Carrim.

The communist leaders were also unhappy that Zuma has done nothing to implement the ANC’s radical economic transformation resolutions taken at the ANC’s 2012 Mangaung conference.

In a document prepared for its special congress last year, the SACP said it regretted replacing Mbeki with a cult figure and for projecting Zuma as a messiah.

“He [Zuma] started very well [in how he treated communists after he was first elected ANC president in 2007], but along the way, he has done too many embarrassing things that the communist party can no longer defend,” said one source.

Cronin, Mvelase and Nqatha did not deny that their party’s central committee meeting discussed Zuma’s recall, and refused to say anything more.

Said Mvelase: “I can’t answer you. The central committee is a closed meeting. Why would I want to talk to you about that? The expectation that I can respond to you about what happened in a closed meeting is wrong.”

Nqatha said: “I can’t speak for the central committee. I can speak on provincial matters. Those [debates around Zuma’s recall] are national matters.”

“I can’t comment about that. It [discussions around Zuma’s recall] was confidential. I am only willing to talk about party positions,” said Cronin.

He said the party was concerned about the souring of relations between the SACP and the ANC, particularly in provinces such as Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

The SACP was instrumental in helping Zuma become ANC president in 2007, and Nzimande has remained a defender of the ANC president.

Now, however, Nzimande is seen as siding with the lobby that has lost confidence in Zuma and want his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa elevated to party president in 2017.

The main falling-out between Nzi­mande and Zuma was over the running of the SABC, and it has become so bad that the SACP has been questioning whether it should still support the ANC in the elections, insiders said.

The leftist lobby, dominated by SACP and former SACP leaders, is roughly aligned around former trade union loyalties, and include Mantashe, who was SACP chairperson but resigned in 2012 to focus on his work in the ANC. Mantashe was a general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, as was Ramaphosa.

Cosatu, which was one of Zuma’s most organised and vocal supporters in 2007, is also perceived to have turned against him.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the party did not know about calls from SACP leaders for Zuma to be recalled. Zuma’s spokesperson, Bongani Majola, did not answer calls and did not respond to messages.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004.
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