It was always going to be easier said than done – the outraged voices from opposition parties, struggle veterans, religious groupings, the media and a lot more – were never going to be able to dictate the way forward for the structures that will have the final say on whether Zuma stays or goes.
The branches of the ANC will seal Zuma’s fate either way, because they opted for him among the many other capable leaders at their disposal. That Zuma has turned out to be the kind of leader he is, is thus a reflection on the branches’ own sense of judgement.
It would not be easy to wash their hands of him without taking collective responsibility for his lapses.
KwaZulu-Natal has a long history of presenting a united front when positions have to be taken by the ANC. It has therefore come as no surprise that when the various structures have pronounced in the aftermath of the seminal Constitutional Court judgment on the Nkandla matter, the message has been clear: Zuma’s apology should be accepted and let us get on with our lives to defend the ANC in the face of an onslaught from various quarters.
And if the Youth League in the province is to be believed, this is not just a small matter of irritating opposition parties and bitter former leaders of the Struggle: the Young Lions have “uncovered” a plot by the West to assassinate Zuma.
As is the nature of such conspiracy theories, details were scant when the Youth League addressed the media after an extraordinary provincial executive committee meeting that resolved to defend Zuma.
All Youth League secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo would reveal was that Western countries, among them the United Kingdom and the United States of America, wanted to “wreak the same havoc like they did to Libya”.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were identified as the forces behind the attack because Zuma had abandoned the West and forged new partnerships with Brazil, Russia, India and China.
“We are here and we want to re-affirm our support for President Zuma,” said Sabelo.
By the time the provincial working committee met on Monday, it was clear how KwaZulu-Natal would respond to the Constitutional Court judgment.
Accepting Zuma’s apology, the committee said it rejected “with (the) contempt it deserves the call by our legendary opponents and those within our ranks, including some religious leaders, for the president to step down.”
It added in a statement: “This coalition against President Zuma has naked intentions to weaken and tarnish the glorious image of the ANC as the leader of the national democratic revolution. We call on President Zuma to focus on his important tasks of leading our people on a journey to a national democratic society.”
The provincial women’s league has also been unequivocal in their support for Zuma. Sharing a cake in celebration of his 74th birthday this week, they saw hypocrisy on the part of religious leaders who disobeyed the injunction in the Lord’s Prayer to forgive those who trespassed against them.
In short, then, indications are that branches in KwaZulu-Natal will join their Mpumalanga counterparts to keep Zuma in his job.
Mpumalanga Premier and ANC chairman David Mabuza has indicated that his leadership also supports Zuma, and will be communicating this position to the branches.
Judging by previous voting patterns in the ANC, and the influence of the so-called Premier League that is the leadership of Mpumalanga, the Free State and North West, it looks likely that the majority of their branches will follow the example of the extended national working committee and accept Zuma’s apology.
Gauteng’s support for Zuma has always been lukewarm at the best of times and he would not have banked on its support during these tough times.
The province’s position that Zuma should reflect on what has transpired under his watch and “do the right thing” would therefore have come as no surprise.
KwaZulu-Natal has described Gauteng’s stance as being “mischievous”.
As is the nature of these processes, a lot of lobbying will take place between the provinces in order to give guidance to the branches.
Not that there is no sense of anger about Nkandla and the Gupta saga.
The unity of the ANC has become of paramount importance in an environment where there is no guarantee that giving in to the demand by the opposition for the leader of the organisation to step down will not lead to further demands.
Second, the process of choosing leaders is often painful and brings to the fore sharp differences, amid allegations of “slates” by different groupings. In KwaZulu-Natal, for instance, the wounds of the battle for the provincial leadership between the supporters of victorious Sihle Zikalala and former chairman Senzo Mchunu are taking a while to heal.
Every effort is therefore being made to present a united province despite the damage caused by the Nkandla debacle.
That could be just what Zuma needs for now, and his home province will provide support from the necessary number of branches to give him yet another chance despite the best efforts of those who believe he is a liability not only to the ANC, but the country as a whole. DM
Photo: South African President Jacob Zuma (C) along with KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Dr Zweli Mkhize (R) and Bhambatha Regional chair of the ANC, Godfrey Mavundla (L) during an election rally in Greytown, South Africa, 11 May 2011. EPA/REINHARDT HARTZENBERG
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*Proteas, you know we love you. We’d just love you more if you won occasionally...
Despite receiving a knighthood from the Queen, Bill Gates cannot use the title "Sir" due to his being American.