/ 29 November 2016

Mantashe: NEC affirmed Zuma is president of South Africa

Gwede Mantashe says the ANC will respect
Gwede Mantashe says the ANC will respect

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said there was no vote for President Jacob Zuma to step down at the ANC national executive committe (NEC) meeting at the weekend, but that the ANC has affirmed Zuma as president of South Africa.

“The fact that we have not asked the president to step aside means we affirm him as president of the republic,” Mantashe said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

He also said voting had not taken place because the ANC NEC does not take votes. Instead, he said, the NEC attempts to reach a consensus when it makes decisions

“The NEC of the ANC has never voted on any issue. Members persuade one another to the point of consensus,” Mantashe said.

“That was debated openly, freely. Everyone was free to make any statement,” he said.

The consensus the NEC reached, Mantashe said, was that “working for division will not give us a result, working for the unity of ANC will be better”.

Mantashe opened the briefing by saying there was nothing special about the extended NEC meeting. He later added that some of the key threats to the ANC are engagements where “everyone is suspicious of one another”. He also said “the revolution is facing serious threats of racism, ethnic tribalism and monopoly capitalism”.

In his statement, Mantashe made no comments on the dissatisfaction regarding Zuma’s leadership. Instead, the ANC secretary general simply said the NEC had tried to reach a consensus on Zuma’s resignation.

ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said Zuma closed the NEC meeting at the weekend, as he usually does, saying the debate for him to step down “was actually a very good discussion”, because it helped the ANC NEC discuss issues that might otherwise be talked about in more private settings.

The briefing comes after reports emerged at the weekend that Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom had requested a vote for Zuma to step down. The move was supported by Health Minister Aaron Motsoeledi, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi.

Speculation emerged that should Zuma refuse to step down, members of the NEC would resign from their positions to avoid being fired. 

A Cabinet reshuffle is reported to be planned as part of Zuma’s bid to oust his detractors. But Mantashe denied any action will be taken against ministers who supported Zuma’s removal, saying that such consquences “deprived the ANC of the views of its own members” who are ministers in Cabinet.

“Nobody will treated in a different way because they raised this issue,” he said.

Duarte supported what Mantashe said, saying no one had mentioned handing in a resignation during the course of the meeting.

‘We are not aware of anyone who has said they are going to resign, ” Duarte said. “In the formal meeting of the NEC that did not arise.”

Journalist Karima Brown broke the news that the NEC was considering a vote on Zuma’s fate by secret ballot. The story was later picked up in the City Press and the Sunday Times, and public interest grew when the ANC announced that NEC would extend the meeting and enter into a third day of discussions on Monday.

The fierce fight to defend Zuma’s position will continue into next year after the president survived the surprise move against him over the weekend. Zuma has also been called to appear before the ANC’s integrity commission, where the ANC says a discussion will take place on the “health and state of the ANC”. 

The Mail & Guardian previously reported that the president would be questioned before the commission for bringing the ANC into disrepute, but the party denies this

The ANC will hold its consultative conference in June 2017 and its elective conference later in the year. The only ANC president to be recalled was Thabo Mbeki after the party’s elective conference in Polokwane in 2007, where Zuma was elected the ANC’s president.