As public pressure against North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo morphs into a violent street campaign to force him out of office, supporters of former president Jacob Zuma have complained about the purging of senior government officials and politicians linked to him by the camp backing President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Meanwhile, in what appears to be a fight-back strategy by the Zuma camp, his supporters in KwaZulu-Natal are continuing to gift the former ANC president with government and ANC platforms from which to defend himself and seek public sympathy.
On Thursday night, Zuma was scheduled to address an interfaith public lecture called by the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Mkhuze on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, in honour of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu.
Zuma’s supporters have warned of a possible split or collapse of the party if Ramaphosa supporters continue the alleged witch-hunt to drive out those who didn’t support him at the national conference.
“There is somehow a euphoria of triumphalism emanating from Nasrec. The problem is we are repeating the same mistakes that occurred after the Polokwane and Mangaung conferences, which resulted in Cope [Congress of the People] and the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters],” said a national working committee (NWC) member sympathetic to Zuma.
“We have to be careful, otherwise the ANC will implode. You can’t go on a rampage purging other people. We are preparing for elections. We don’t have to dampen the spirit. We are in a fragile position. We can’t do that,” said the NWC member.
The complaint from the Zuma supporters was sparked by a series of events that have affected prominent members of the Zuma camp since the conclusion of the party’s December elective conference.
These include the push to get rid of Mahumapelo and attempts by some of Ramaphosa supporters to remove current Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle and replace him with ANC chairman Oscar Mabuyane. The Zuma supporters also cite as an example the decision to replace Zuma loyalists on state-owned entities boards and in key government positions with those who are loyal to Ramaphosa.
But an NWC member sympathetic to Ramaphosa dismissed claims of the purging of Zuma loyalists and said everything being done now was prompted by legitimate concerns about corruption.
“Supra did not hide that his children are working with the Guptas. And [referring to Free State premier Ace Magashule] there was that issue with the dairy farm, the Hawks are following those things. If you look at Supra again and you look at the issue with that medical supply company [Mediosa] … those are things that people can see. It’s not a question of purging. Those are facts,” the NWC member said.
This week NWC members visited North West province to dissuade members of the provincial legislature from voting in favour of a motion of no confidence against Mahumapelo brought by the Economic Freedom Front.
The revolt against Mahumapelo has shifted from mere unhappiness among his political counterparts to highly charged protests by Mahikeng residents angered by the effect of corruption on services.
The unrest has prompted the ANC Veterans League to call for the dissolution of the North West ANC provincial executive committee (PEC). The report was presented to the NWC this week. The veterans want the PEC to be replaced with a provincial task team until such a time as the province is ready to go to conference.
“An interim structure will facilitate the process of rebuilding the ANC, putting up an elections structure and bring vibrancy in terms of the life of the ANC in the province,” said North West veterans league member Pitso Tolo.
“We must win the 2019 election but, God knows, the way we are now … I mean Mahikeng is on fire.”
The main concerns raised by the veterans include corruption, the poor state of governance and service delivery as well as the deteriorating state of the ANC and its structures in the province.
In January, a group of North West ANC members calling itself the “revolutionary council” announced its intention to have Mahumapelo removed from office. The group compiled a “corruption register” where residents could report all acts of corruption linked to Mahumapelo and his affiliates.
That same month the Bloemfontein offices of then Free State premier and now ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, a vocal Zuma supporter, were raided by the Hawks in connection with the Estina dairy project. Recently, the former Free State premier found himself on the receiving end of fresh claims that he allegedly secured housing contracts worth R150-million for his daughter.
In March Mahumapelo’s offices were raided by the Hawks in connection with an allegedly fraudulent, multimillion rand IT contract with Nepo Data Dynamics.
A senior party member sympathetic to the Zuma grouping said those behind the purge were using the fight against corruption and other legitimate public concerns as an excuse to push people out.
“It’s really these [Ramaphosa] comrades who are trying to ensure that they remove all JZ people from political office and government,” said the senior member.
“They are using genuine things like: ‘We are fighting against corruption.’ These are just allegations but the way they are being purported is like they have found something [concrete] about Supra or Ace.”
The Zuma group said that, although they were not against efforts by the new leadership to fight corruption, they opposed selective persecution of comrades by the Ramaphosa group against those who did not support the president, yet ignored corruption allegations levelled against those who supported him such as deputy president David Mabuza.
Zuma supporters said it was wrong for the Ramaphosa group to try to use undemocratic means to remove democratically elected leaders of the ANC.
An NWC member sympathetic to Zuma and Mahumapelo said ANC history showed that dissolving a PEC did not guarantee a loss of support for the targeted leaders. “In the Free State, Magashule was dissolved three times; he came back four times,” the NWC member said. “So even if you ask the branches that are there, they will vote him [Mahumapelo] back in. The man still has support in the ANC. If they called a conference tomorrow, he will win it.”
Zuma supporters say that the argument to postpone ANC conferences is being used as a tactic by the Ramaphosa backers to allow it enough time to consolidate support in areas where the Zuma camp is still strong.
But Zuma’s supporters are not backing down and are staging their own fight back efforts, which at this point are prevalent in KwaZulu-Natal.
Thursday’s legislature event, which Zuma was scheduled to address, was organised by its public participation committee, chaired by ANC MPL Bishop Vusi Dube, who co-ordinated the march in defence of the former ANC president at his court appearance earlier this month.
Dube, founder of the eThekwini Community Church, is a leader of the National Interfaith Council of South Africa, which is central to trying to make national the public campaign to support Zuma, who is to appear again in the high court in Durban in June.
Legislature spokesperson Wonder Hlongwa said Zuma had been “requested” by the religious sector in the area as a speaker “because of his seniority as a leader and his profile”.
“We are responding to a request from people in the sector and the area as to who they wanted to address the forum, which is part of our public participation programme. They made it clear through the committee involved that it was the former president who they wanted to deliver the address,” Hlongwa said.
Zuma’s supporters in KwaZulu-Natal are also pushing to convince the NWC to allow the provincial and regional conferences to go ahead during May. They believe that doing so will allow them to re-elect Sihle Zikalala and consolidate a base from which to stage a fight-back campaign within the party.
Ramaphosa’s supporters want the conference postponed until next year because of alleged gatekeeping by the Zuma camp in the regions and they want the provincial interim committee disbanded and replaced with a neutral provincial task team.