Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Jacob Zuma. Picture: SUPPLIED
Jacob Zuma. Picture: SUPPLIED

A discussion on Jacob Zuma’s future as SA’s president would be unavoidable at the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting kicking off in Irene on Thursday, sources said.

Sources in the NEC said ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa had undertaken at a special sitting of the committee last week to report back to it on his interaction with Zuma since his election as party president in December.

Zuma is unlikely to complete his second term, with some insiders saying he may not even deliver the state of the nation address in February.

The report on the interaction between Ramaphosa and Zuma is said to open the way for a discussion on Zuma’s removal from the Union Buildings.

Zuma confirmed on Sunday that he and Ramaphosa had met alone and had agreed to hold regular meetings to ensure "synergy between the governing party and government", since the country’s president was no longer part of the ANC’s top six leaders.

"There is no way that matter can be avoided; it has to be dealt with," said an NEC member.

Another said the report by Ramaphosa would open the way for the discussion, but expected a massive pushback from Zuma backers, who make up a large section of the leadership structure.

NEC sources aligned to Ramaphosa said the ball was
in Zuma’s court "to do the honourable thing" or face
being recalled or, worse still, being impeached.

NEC sources, aligned to Ramaphosa, said the ball was
in Zuma’s court to resign and  do what was right for the ANC,
or face being recalled, or  worse, impeached.

One source said that should Zuma agree to resign, he would be spared the humiliation of a  recall or impeachment. If Zuma was impeached, he would lose his pension.

"It is not in the interests of the ANC to penalise anyone … as
an organisation there is no intention to humiliate anyone and be punitive.

"The ball is in his court to  act in his own interests," the source said.

Ramaphosa, in an interview with the SABC on Sunday, said the matter of managing the two centres of power would be dealt with "delicately".

He said the party leadership would "manage it" and emphasised that the party would  not "humiliate president Zuma — that is one thing we are very clear on".

Zuma supporters have made it clear that they would fight back against attempts to remove him, warning that it could split the ANC.

Zuma’s recall would not be without precedents.

His predecessor Thabo Mbeki was recalled by Zuma’s political allies when he swept to power at the party’s Polokwane elective conference in 2007, citing, among other things, the problems caused by two centres of power.

The ANC’s powerful national working committee, which oversees the daily running of the party, will be elected at the NEC meeting. It will be critical for Ramaphosa that the structure is dominated by his backers.

The election will indicate the extent of his support in the NEC, which was elected in December and emerged as a mixed bag between his camp and that of the Zuma faction.

The two-day NEC meeting precedes a two-day lekgotla, which includes ministers, directors-general, other government officials and alliance partners Cosatu and the South African Communist Party.

The meeting is aimed at preparing for the coming cabinet lekgotla, at which priorities for the year will be outlined. These will be announced during the state of the nation address on February 8.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa could not be reached for comment.