It’s been two days since President Cyril Ramaphosa made a rare guest appearance as ANC president at the governing party’s post-national executive committee (NEC) meeting media briefing; and 158 days since he locked us down as head of state in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I’d almost expected the president to announce a move back to level five of the lockdown regulations when he took to the screen on Monday, I’ve become so used to seeing him in that role.
I guess he did, in a way. Or at least those in the party with their fingers in the till, who are, we are told, to be locked out until they are eventually locked down.
Vacate your post.
The idea of the party leadership addressing the media via Zoom or the TV screen, rather than in person, has become the norm now.
It’s no longer weird to see secretary general Ace Magashule’s head via the webcam on his laptop, overhead lights reflecting off his glasses, as he informs the media of NEC meeting outcomes. It was, however, weird to find him speaking only in the additional responses to questions, after the president had delivered the main statement and taken questions from the fourth estate.
Perhaps the ANC national executive no longer trusts Magashule to address the media accurately on the NEC meeting outcomes, particularly the bits about the family members of party leaders being banned from doing business with the state and the need for the membership to disassociate themselves from dodge punters within and beyond its ranks.
It may have been a little too much to expect Magashule to read a statement condemning the choreography of a choreographed campaign against the president by the choreographer-in-chief, which he had assisted in choreographing himself.
Perhaps this particular outcome — which may have implications for Magashule himself, given his date this week with the party’s integrity commission and the agreement that those who couldn’t explain themselves would be asked to step aside — was one which was too close to home, too painful, for the former Free State premier to be asked to deliver in person.
Perhaps Ace didn’t have enough data to deliver the statement, or his internet connection in the Free State was too slow and unreliable, but it was clearly Ramaphosa, and not Magashule, who was running the show on Monday and who had emerged victorious — at least for the moment — from the weekend’s NEC meeting.
By the time Ace did get to speak, the gig was pretty much over.
Bra Yster got to mumble for a couple of seconds, to the few viewers and even fewer media types who were still listening, before he was muted and scuttled off to perform his new role as the custodian of the list of future unelectables, which he may still have the honour of heading.
Perhaps former president Jacob Zuma was watching the briefing on the big screen in the bunker at his KwaDakwadunuse homestead in Nxamalala on Monday afternoon.
Undoubtedly, uBaba had gotten the bad news from his people in the NEC long before the 4pm briefing got going, so he wouldn’t have had to wait, like the rest of the republic.
Then again, Zuma is likely to have watched to see if Ramaphosa bothered to reply to the open letter from Carl Niehaus that he had signed ahead of the NEC meeting to try and push back Ramaphosa.
Zuma’s letter was pure Niehaus: all pomposity, bluster and bollocks, with that tweetalige stiffness reminiscent of a Suid-Afrikaanse Spoorweë toilet notice translated into English. Did Zuma read the letter before he signed it? Or did he pretend to listen while Carl read it out, standing at attention in his camouflaged MK onesie in front of his webcam, unaware that his hero was focused on the latest payment notification from the brothers in Dubai on his cellphone, rather than his dulcet prose?
I wonder how the Choreographer of Nxamalala feels about the outcome of the NEC meeting and the new rule banning ANC members from associating with criminal accused like himself. Zuma can’t be too impressed. If the NEC decision is implemented, ANC members won’t be allowed to come to court to support Zuma when his trial on corruption charges finally gets under way next year, even in their “personal capacity,” leaving him with only the Black Label First in the public gallery and the media to wave at.
It’s early days still, but Ramaphosa now appears to be calling the shots in the ANC for the first time since he took office in 2017. And the NEC appears to be shifting towards a clean-up of the party. Finally. They don’t really have a choice, given the backlash sparked by the looting of Covid-19 resources inside and outside the party and the election on the horizon.
The Magashule faction won’t go quietly. They can’t afford to. Allowing the NEC decision to be implemented means they’ll have to accept being locked out of the party leadership contests coming up between now and next year’s local government elections.
And the party’s elective national conference in 2022.
Expect some noise…