Why this is the end for Zuma

Begone! Economic Freedom Fighters supporters make their feelings clear during the #SaveSouthAfrica protest in Pretoria. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Begone! Economic Freedom Fighters supporters make their feelings clear during the #SaveSouthAfrica protest in Pretoria. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

NEWS ANALYSIS 

No, really. This time it’s happening. The report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela into the alleged “capture” of the state by the Gupta family was finally released on Wednesday; it did not contain good news for President Jacob Zuma.

The public protector asked Zuma to appoint a commission of inquiry within 30 days to investigate the extent of state capture more fully.
The commission’s head will be selected by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

This will be no Seriti commission or Marikana whitewash. The opportunity to manage the process towards a desired result is reduced by the chief justice’s involvement and the powers the commission will have — exactly those of the public protector.

The public protector will also approach the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks to investigate any evidence of criminality that has been uncovered. The doors will be blown wide open. All the dirty secrets will come tumbling out.

The evidence brought to light so far, such as the revelations of R6.8‐billion in suspect transactions by Gupta‐linked companies, points to a potential mountain of horror.

Then there’s the “small” matter of 783 charges against Zuma, including fraud, corruption and racketeering, which have not gone away. His lawyers must present oral arguments why the Supreme Court of Appeal should reverse the Pretoria high court’s ruling that the 2009 decision to drop charges was irrational.

This is likely to be another dead end for Zuma — the high court refused to hear an appeal on the grounds that chances of success were nonexistent.

The legal fights could take a while. The game of politics doesn’t wait.

On this front, the writing is on the wall for Zuma. He has pushed the ANC into an invidious position.

For one thing, the state capture report provides compelling evidence that the president was not in fact taking directives from Luthuli House on how to run his government, but rather from his iffy friends.

This leaves the ANC having to fend off the attentions of opposition parties in Parliament and the attentions of what will be a hostile commission of inquiry — to say nothing of the party’s dwindling constituency.

Zuma’s weak position is demonstrated by the boldness of his detractors of late. The ANC’s parliamentary chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, has gone on a media blitz to inform his party leader and the whole national executive committee (NEC) that it’s time for them to go. The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union has become the first affiliate of union federation Cosatu to call publicly for him to step down.

On Wednesday, Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile made an appearance at the #SaveSouthAfrica event, in spite of the party’s secretary general Gwede Mantashe saying that there was no need for the party to attend the event. Mashatile, too, called for Zuma’s head.

The anti‐Zuma jamboree at St Alban’s Cathedral in the nation’s cap‐ ital may not have been the start of an ANC faction to oppose him and his allies, but it could be. The platform is now there. Mashatile has drawn a ring around himself and the Gauteng ANC and has placed Mthembu inside it. Come join us if you’ve had enough of all this, he beckoned comrades. We couldn’t speak up before; we can now. This isn’t a silent scream into the ether — at the end of August, several branches of the ANC in the Eastern Cape called for Zuma to go.

Zuma has one card left to play: brute numbers. He still owns the NEC. The premier league still controls three provinces. The ANC’s youth league and women’s league back him, as does KwaZulu‐Natal.

To oust him, five of the party’s nine provincial structures need to ask for a special congress, at which the majority of delegates need to vote to depose him.

His allies have a strong incentive to maintain the patronage network they and Number One built. It is in their interest to manage the succession process and anoint a new president who will not upset things. The youth league has already backed Zuma’s ex‐wife, outgoing African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini‐Zuma.

Zuma’s allies now look to the future. His opponents are emboldened as never before. A battle line of sorts is being drawn, albeit slowly.

A lot can still happen. But people will be motivated to look towards December 2017, when ANC delegates meet to elect new leaders — not back‐ wards to save a wrecked, lame‐duck president. 

Sipho Hlongwane

Sipho Hlongwane

Sipho Hlongwane is The Daily Vox’s acting managing editor. A published author, columnist and reporter by training (School of Hard Knocks), he has covered some of South Africa’s most vivid protest marches, wildcat strikes and press conferences. His scariest assignments were for fancy women’s magazines. He obsesses over football and popular music for fun. Read more from Sipho Hlongwane

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