Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe has dismissed calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down, saying the ANC will only consider this demand if it is made from within its ranks.
Responding to the resounding calls for Zuma’s resignation from civil society, opposition parties and tripartite alliance members the South African Communist Party (SACP) and labour federation Cosatu, Radebe said no such consideration was being made by the ANC.
“The ANC is an independent organisation, it takes decisions based on its own assessment. That question has not arisen in the ANC right now. It did arise in the NEC [national executive committee] of November 2016 and you know the result of that. So that’s the position at the moment,” he said.
But Radebe took a softer stance on the United Democratic Movement’s (UDM) Constitutional Court application for a secret ballot in a Parliamentary motion of no confidence in Zuma.
Both Zuma and Parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete argued that calling on the court to decide the case breached South Africa’s separation of powers doctrine – between the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
Radebe said he accepted the official position expressed by the executive, but he also believed the UDM was within its rights to make such an application to the court, he told the Mail & Guardian on the sidelines of a government networking session in Pretoria this week.
“We live in a constitutional democracy. And in terms of the system of our government as a whole the judiciary is the final arbiter in disputes. So there is a dispute and the UDM has gone to the Constitutional Court. So as we know the Constitutional Court is the apex court, it is the court of last resort. So I think we should wait for the outcome of that decision,” Radebe said.
“That’s the nature of constitutional demo-cracy if there is a non-meeting of the minds. The only way to avoid that is in a court of law so I’m sure those political parties have expressed their own constitutional understanding of the matter.”
The court has agreed to hear the UDM’s application on Monday. Should the party be successful in its quest for a secret ballot it is expected that a number of ANC MPs could vote in favour of the motion.
Radebe is known to have been among the many ANC leaders who supported Zuma. In recent years his role in government has been characterised by his execution of damage control measures to cover up bouts of controversy under Zuma’s leadership.
Following the release of the public protector’s Nkandla report in 2014 Radebe was vocal in his defence for Zuma, insisting that “the private house of the president was built by the president and his family” and that “the retaining wall, cattle kraal and culvert, fire pool and water reservoir, accommodation for security personnel and visitors’ waiting area are all essential security features”.
But questions have been raised about how close the relationship is between the two after Zuma reconstituted government’s interministerial committee on information and publicity in March, removing Radebe as its chairperson.
Radebe, the planning, monitoring and evaluation minister, has now been touted as a presidential hopeful alongside former African Union chair and minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Next month the ANC heads to its policy conference where it will deliberate on policy issues including the controversial questions of land expropriation and radical economic transformation.
As head of policy in the ANC and planning, monitoring and evaluation minister, Radebe will have the task not only of overseeing the policy conference but also of ensuring that policy discussions and recommendations resonate with the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP), which his department is responsible for monitoring.
To date the ANC has appeared divided on the land debate and whether the Constitution should be amended to allow expropriation without compensation. Although Zuma, Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti and Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu have expressed support for it, others including ANC economic transformation head Enoch Godongwana and Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba are less convinced.
But Radebe refuses to debate expropriation without compensation or changes to section 25 of the Constitution until the ANC has discussed the matter.
“At this time the policy is very clear that it is based on section 25 of the Constitution and we need to do everything within our power to work within the constraints of the law. But, as the governing party, it’s still too early to determine what the outcome will be. At the policy conference we’ll be able to gauge how far this matter of land is going.”
Speaking on radical economic transformation and the controversy stirred up by sudden adoption of the term by ANC leaders this year, Radebe said the concept wasn’t a new idea to the party, saying its purpose was only to fulfil the objectives of the NDP.
The ANC has been accused by the SACP and former finance deputy minister Mcebisi Jonas of using radical economic transformation as a cover-up for the looting of state resources.
Radebe said: “This is not an invention of 2017. This matter arose in 2012 in the governing party’s conference in Mangaung, where the assessment of the situation in South Africa concluded that in the past 20 years we succeeded in consolidating institutions of our democracy [and] now we need to shift and focus more on the economic transformation of South African society,” Radebe said.
“So that is why this issue of radical socioeconomic transformation arises. And what is the programme to implement that? The programme to implement that is the National Development Plan.”