No decision on Zuma exit, says Magashule
There is no timeline for president to go, but sources say there is broad agreement he should step down
There is confusion about the departure of President Jacob Zuma, with Luthuli House saying on Monday no decision has been taken by the ANC national executive committee (NEC) for his early departure and there is no timeline for him to leave the Union Buildings.
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and his deputy Jesse Duarte were adamant on Monday that no decision had been taken on Zuma’s exit. This was despite numerous sources saying that an overwhelming majority of speakers at last week’s two-day NEC meeting supported his early removal.
Magashule said the NEC had not “arrived at a decision” about whether Zuma should stay or go. Explaining this later, Duarte said the matter of Zuma’s removal was raised by about six NEC members out of a total of 80. Various other NEC members raised the possibility of his voluntary resignation, while others said he should be asked to step down.
Officials were given the task of managing the relationship between Zuma and Luthuli House. ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa would meet Zuma every Tuesday to discuss issues of governance, she said.
“There was no decision to ask president Zuma to go,” Duarte said.
Business Day spoke to a number of sources, who said there was broad agreement that Zuma should be asked to step down as head of state and that the party’s national officials, headed by Ramaphosa, should manage the process.
Sources indicated that the officials would ask Zuma to resign or the matter would be referred to Parliament, where
he would face a motion of no confidence or impeachment. Impeachment would result in Zuma losing his benefits.
Zuma loyalist Magashule — responding at his first formal media briefing as secretary-general to questions about when Zuma would step down — said the party had asked the officials to manage the relationship.
The ANC is set to face a tough election campaign ahead of the 2019 general election. Ramaphosa’s leadership is under pressure to reconnect with the electorate and turn around perceptions about the ANC.
In his address at the NEC meeting, Ramaphosa told party leaders things had to change, that the party had to be sensitive to the needs of the people and that society required action against corruption, not just talk.
Ramaphosa also took on factionalism, according to NEC sources, saying lobby groups formed ahead of the party’s succession race should dissolve and that no one should use his name to push their own agendas.
The first big decision taken by Ramaphosa was the formation of the new Eskom board, announced on Saturday, to avert damaging economic consequences stemming from the parastatals’ dire governance and financial state.
Insiders attending the NEC lekgotla at the weekend said the Eskom shake-up was just the beginning. Other steps would soon follow at state-owned entities, such as the South African Revenue Service.
Sources in the NEC told Business Day that there had been little resistance to the call for Zuma to resign at the meeting, during which about 40 people spoke on the matter in a discussion that continued until after midnight on Friday.
One speaker, who defended Zuma, argued that in a similar debate previously, it had been decided that Zuma should conclude his term — but this argument was swiftly shot down.
The NEC lekgotla resolved to call on the government to implement conference resolutions on land reform and free higher education. Magashule said resolutions on land should be implemented while ensuring that food security and the input of the agricultural sector in the economy were not disrupted. The government should “act responsibly” using “evidence-based decision making”.
He was also asked about moves by the security cluster to act against alleged corruption at the Vrede Dairy Farm venture in the Free State in which Zuma’s friends and family benefactors, the Guptas are involved.
Magashule confirmed that his son was working for the Gupta family, but that he was not involved in the Vrede Dairy Farm matter and that the law should “take its course”.