The so-called RET faction of the ANC took to gospel television on July 16 to make a last-gasp plea for clemency for still-jailed former president Jacob Zuma as the violent and chaotic campaign to free him backfired.
After a week of violence, anarchy, and looting, South Africa began to mop up and count the costs of the body-blow dealt with the country by what is likely to be disgruntled ANC leaders and former members of the intelligence and branch members who fomented the campaign.
The mood has turned against Zuma who initially enjoyed public sympathy, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, after being jailed on July 7. But the violence and looting, of which the organisers lost control, has taken attention away from the fact that he remains in jail in Estcourt 10 days after being sent there. His supporters told the Mail & Guardian that the industrial-scale looting took them by surprise.
The so-called RET faction of the ANC, which was formed by leaders like suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and suspended former Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association spokesman Carl Niehaus, among others, is now on the backfoot as it becomes increasingly clear that the attempted insurrection may have been plotted within its ranks. Timeslive and the Mail & Guardian have named ANC members, who allegedly plotted the violence in Durban on WhatsApp in chat-groups, being investigated by police criminal intelligence and the State Security Agency.
Now on the defensive, its tactics exposed, the RET faction took to Love World, a streaming multinational gospel channel owned by Nigerian pastor Chris Oyakhilome, to get themselves and Zuma back on the news agenda. While he did not appear at the televised press conference, ANC member Phapano Phasha said that Magashule was listening in and invited him to speak. He did not. Phasha is closely associated with Zuma and the RET campaign; she led his support team at his first appearance at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
She said that Zuma’s jailing lit the powder keg and added that “Only a free president Zuma can address our nation and call for calm”. She added that if he were released, he could intervene to calm the country. In fact, the country is now regarded as stable after the most challenging unrest in recent history.
Niehaus’s mood changed from threatening to pleading as the press conference progressed. “All of us agree it would be possible for President Ramaphosa to have President Zuma released immediately,” said Niehaus.
Asked if he would grant Zuma a presidential pardon, President Cyril Ramaphosa was non-committal on his whistle-stop tour of parts of Durban on July 16. “Yes, our provincial leadership has been suggesting we should look at a variety of measures of dealing with the difficult situation where the court has made a ruling. And President Jacob Zuma must be credited and applauded for having complied with what the court ruled. We are giving consideration to all the issues and proposals put forward to us, and until then, let’s leave the matter where it is,” said Ramaphosa.
Both the KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala and the eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda oppose his jailing and have said Zuma should be given a presidential pardon. Ramaphosa has shown no sign of buckling to the pressure, while Zuma is back in court on Monday, July 19, on arms deal corruption-related charges.
In a further sign of retreat, Zuma’s spymaster Thulani Dlomo who ran a sprawling private intelligence operation for the head of state when he was in the Union Buildings, emerged from hiding to deny he was complicit in planning the campaign of violence which took out key infrastructure. Speaking to IOL, Dlomo claimed that he had, in fact, been asked to assist the government in dousing the flames. He did not say who had asked him.
Niehaus and Phasha headlined the press conference on behalf of 17 members of the #FreeJacobZuma campaign. Niehaus said it had many more supporters and said they all opposed violence.
The former head of MKMVA, also penned a publicly released letter to Luthuli House, on the letterhead of the now disbanded organisation, criticising statements by Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa who said they were investigating whether former MK and MKMVA members had been part of the wave of violence and looting.
Letter by the President of #MKMVA, comrade #KebbyMaphatsoe, to the #NationalOfficeBearers of @MYANC, complaining about the outrageous and insulting comments made by Deputy Minister @zizikodwa about #MK and #MKMVA. pic.twitter.com/AGxFrzSHc9
— Carl Niehaus (@niehaus_carl) July 16, 2021
The ANC has suspended all the key leaders of the RET campaign. DM