Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS

The new leadership of the ANC did not discuss President Jacob Zuma’s future on Wednesday, an official said, disappointing investors who had hoped the governing party would seek to remove him from power.

Zuma’s replacement as party leader by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, in December prompted widespread expectation of an early end to his time in office, which has been marred by persistent graft allegations.

On Wednesday, the rand weakened as much as 1.7% to the dollar after the ANC said Zuma’s future was not on the agenda of its one-day leadership meeting. It later recouped some losses to close at R12.44.

Since Ramaphosa’s narrow party election win in December, the rand has gained 8% against the dollar, driven by hopes Ramaphosa would persuade Zuma to step down.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said the special national executive committee meeting had only one item on the agenda: the 106th anniversary statement by Ramaphosa in East London on Saturday.

But Zuma’s days as president are numbered as his legal woes continue to mount. The ANC is tap-dancing around the issue, with strong support for his removal matched by a fierce fightback by his backers.

The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) and the ANC Youth League came out this week to warn the party’s top brass against Zuma’s removal, saying it would probably lead to a split.

Ramaphosa backers say that retaining Zuma in the post until 2019 is not an option. They argue his continued occupation of the state president’s office will hurt the ANC’s prospects in the 2019 general election. Insiders in the national executive committee and in the Ramaphosa camp said on Wednesday there was a need for a "cooling-off period" before action could be taken.

Special national executive committee meetings tend to have a limited agenda. The next ordinary meeting of the committee is set to take place next weekend to prepare for the state of the nation address. The structure holds ordinary meetings once every three months.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the agenda had already been adopted by the special meeting — this meant that there was little room to raise other issues from the floor.

MKMVA chairman Kebby Maphatsoe — a Zuma supporter — told Business Day on Wednesday that Zuma continued to enjoy support in the party and removing him would split the party.

"Jacob Zuma has support whether we like it or not; if we remove him many people will leave the ANC," he said.

But those wanting Zuma out are simply waiting for the right time. The coming lekgotla to prepare for the state of the nation address will be preceded by an ordinary meeting of the national executive committee.

This will provide another opportunity for Zuma’s recall to be raised.

The meeting will also be used to elect the ANC’s powerful national working committee, which oversees its daily running. This election will provide key insights into whether those wanting to see Zuma removed will have sufficient backing
as it will test the balance of power in the newly elected executive committee.