South Africa

Zuma Watch: ANC officials no show at Mandela Centenary build-up events heightens expectations of resolution soon

By Carien Du Plessis 9 February 2018

Former president Nelson Mandela would at least have been proud of the ANC’s Twitter account, which kept soldiering on with tributes to him even as party leaders disappeared from their duties without a proper explanation from the party’s communications machinery. They were apparently all in Gauteng to have more “transition” talks with Jacob Zuma, who is still the President. By CARIEN DU PLESSIS.

There was no red-eye New Age breakfast briefing addressed by President Jacob Zuma on Friday morning as has been the practice for the past few years at this time, although it was advertised before the State of the Nation Address was called off on Tuesday.

Instead, there was going to be an early-morning mobilisation programme for the ANC’s commemoration of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison on February 11, 1990, led by the top six officials. But then there were programme changes to say ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and chairperson Gwede Mantashe couldn’t make it any more.

Eventually, those of the party’s top six officials eventually tasked to do walkabouts and campaigning in neighbourhoods around Cape Town, failed to pitch up altogether, leaving local party activists and journalists hanging. There was no official notice from party spokespeople beforehand, and when journalists asked, they were told party deputy president David Mabuza, secretary general Ace Magashule, his deputy Jessie Duarte and treasurer-general Paul Mashatile had more “pressing matters” to attend.

They weren’t even in town any more, with most having left the night before, and Mashatile having jetted out in the morning.

The only things that do seem to be going ahead, are meetings with Zuma about the party wanting him to step down, and the Grand Parade rally planned for Sunday and due to be addressed by Ramaphosa.

Nobody would, however, be surprised if that got cancelled as well, but according to provincial party officials, mobilisation for that was on track and the rally was expected to be a success.

There’s been no official word from Ramaphosa since Wednesday, but Times Select did carry a report on the ANC caucus meeting (which is usually top secret but this week had a public interest dimension to it) saying Ramaphosa cancelled the planned national executive committee meeting on Wednesday after “a change in tone” from Zuma’s side about requests for him to step down. When he met with party officials on Sunday night, he said he was not ready to resign. Presumably, by Tuesday, he was, which was why the meeting was cancelled.

Ramaphosa also, according to the report, said he had no authority to grant Zuma immunity from prosecution, because it would amount to political interference.

In fact, even if Ramaphosa did strike a deal in this regard, it would have to remain top secret because the same investors Ramaphosa had been wooing, would not feel comfortable knowing that the country’s institutions functioned less than independently.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister David Mahlobo gave notice to Parliament’s energy portfolio committee that he would not be able to make a meeting on Tuesday and that it would have to be cancelled. Similarly, there was no real reason that something like the Ubuntu Awards could not go ahead, even if Zuma would not be able to officiate. International relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane could also officiate – unless she isn’t a minister any more.

Nkoana-Mashabane is generally understood to be one of those first in line to be reshuffled should Zuma go (Lindiwe Sisulu has been mentioned as a possible replacement). Mahlobo is likely to follow not far behind.

On the surface the story remains much the same as the rest of the preceding week – that there’s been an agreement that Zuma would step down and this would be rolled out soon – but underneath, things seem to be moving fast now. And if an instagram post by first Lady Thobeka Madiba-Zuma is anything to go by, things could “get ugly”. DM

Photo of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa by Greg Nicolson / Daily Maverick.

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