South Africa

Politics, South Africa

ANC provincial leagues: Forgive Zuma, blame the West

ANC provincial leagues: Forgive Zuma, blame the West

A day after the ANC Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee questioned the president’s future, the party’s leagues in the province said Jacob Zuma should stay to complete his term. But how do you accept the scathing Constitutional Court judgment, a non-apology from the president, and not call for further consequences? It’s easy: forgive and blame the West. By GREG NICOLSON.

On Wednesday, ANC Youth League Gauteng Chairman Matome Chiloane was the main speaker in a crammed room in Walter Sisulu House, the party’s provincial headquarters. Alongside and behind Chiloane were leaders of Gauteng’s Youth League, Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association, Veterans League, and Women’s League.

The press conference can be summarised in two statements, both in the official press release. “The dirty hand of the West is fiddling with our country and using the opposition as their instruments to create chaos,” read Chiloane. And later: “Therefore the right decision as per ANC Gauteng resolution is for President Jacob Zuma to finish his term.”

On Tuesday, the Gauteng ANC Provincial Executive Committee called for Zuma to “do the right thing” after the Constitutional Court found he “failed to defend, uphold and protect the Constitution” in regards to the public protector’s remedial action on the upgrades to his Nkandla home. The Provincial Executive Committee did not officially call for Zuma to resign, but it has emerged as Zuma’s strongest challenger within the official bodies of the ANC, leading supporters to punt conspiracy theories as their room to defend the president narrows.

The leagues said they had consulted and are still consulting their members and can take their own positions, despite the Provincial Executive Committee’s stance.

“Because South Africa has taken a conscious decision to create and build relations with Brazil, Russia, India and China, this does not sit well with the West as they view this as a threat to their political and economic global control, and rise of their rivals in the form of Russia and China,” read Chiloane from the statement. “It is due to this threat and disruption of their control that they target BRICS countries in pursuit of feeding their hunger for total control. It therefore comes as no surprise that South Africa and Brazil are currently faced with calls for impeachment and downgrading.”

It could make sense; who doesn’t think the West is corrupt? Many Western states have a wretched history of colonialism and orchestrating coups. They continue to intervene in developing countries through their armed forces, aid packages, policy pressure, and multinational corporations. Of course they are worried about the influence of China and Russia, but are they trying to overthrow Zuma?

The Gauteng leagues claim the DA and EFF, and perhaps the New York Times after its editorial calling for the president to go, are working at the behest of Western states and “white minority capital” – the likes of billionaire Johann Rupert who publicly asked Zuma to resign. But that’s where they leave it. It’s like the claim that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is a CIA agent: it would make a great movie, but there are no facts to back up the fiction.

When the president and ANC are under pressure, conspiracy theories abound. In a statement after the Gauteng PEC announced its stance on Tuesday, ANC Women’s League Secretary-General Meokgo Matuba asked how long she must stay quiet. She outlined a confusing web of allegations that diverts attention from the finding that Zuma failed to uphold the Constitution and casts doubt on his critics.

Some of us knew the day would come for truth to burst, in as much as it was heaped up, boiling quietly inside,” said Matuba on continued inequality and the players responsible. She said the “Ciex Report”, which tracks apartheid corruption and implicates Absa, hasn’t been investigated as promised by Thuli Madonsela. She said the sale of Absa to Barclays would have required the approval of former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, who has said Zuma should resign. Manuel’s wife is Absa CEO Maria Ramos, who was a nonexecutive director of Remgro, chaired and partly owned by Rupert. The insinuation is that Rupert, Manuel and Ramos are working together to protect their own and other financial interests and Madonsela is too populist to investigate what’s important. If your head is spinning, it’s meant to.

“We have forgiven our leader, Comrade President Jacob Zuma and remain steadfast in our quest, for economic freedom and equality alongside President Jacob Zuma. We rally with his leadership to a better change, and remain true to the course bound by the Freedom Charter,” she continued. “We will not be shaken by songs of disrepute, clatter of confusion, misinformed quotes by the mainstream media, and its originators, false religious prophets and veterans who have been fed to their stomachs by our former oppressors.”

In response to the league, Madonsela told News24, “I think a lot of them are being used as proxies and I really feel sorry for them.” She said the public protector’s investigation into the Ciex Report relates to whether the government mishandled the opportunity to reclaim stolen funds and is ongoing. While it’s a crucial issue, Matuba clearly wasn’t ready to acknowledge that the Zuma government is just as unwilling to pursue those guilty of grand corruption during apartheid as all previous administrations have been.

President Zuma still commands much support in the ANC and most of the provinces who have made a decision on the issue have accepted his apology for the Nkandla scandal and still back him as leader. Outside of patronage, there are valid reasons within the party to still back him, perhaps the most important being that the ANC doesn’t want a revolving door or recalls and split factions, especially few months before elections.

The conspiracy theories however show just far the situation has descended. The president and the ANC have accepted some of the problems with how Nkandla was dealt with, but continue to oppose the positions of opposition parties and play down Zuma’s failure to uphold the Constitution.

The Gauteng leagues on Wednesday said, “The manner in which the Nkandla matter was handled leaves little to be desired, and we fully support the Constitutional Court judgment which calls on President Zuma to pay for all non-security upgrades to his Nkandla home.”

Even that raises the question: what now? Should the president still be the president?

For various reasons, those backing Zuma want to avoid that question at all costs. But as soon as someone deviates from the script, like the Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee, the only way to accept the president’s failures and continue to avoid the question of whether Zuma should be recalled is to spin conspiracy theories. It’s only taken one province, which was already critical of the president, and already Zuma’s supporters are clutching to fantasy to avoid the truth. DM

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) jokes with South African President Jacob Zuma, who was talking on the phone, during a luncheon during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 28 September 2015. EPA/CHIP SOMODEVILLA / POOL.


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