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Cyril, Gordhan et al, and their Gordian Knot


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

As I interact with numerous people in and around Jozi, the two key demands from people with regards the current political landscape are that, one, Zuma must go and two, Cyril Ramaphosa needs to grow some balls. And I mean huge kahunas!

Thinking about the situation that Cyril and Co find themselves in made me consider the vote of no confidence matter. The opposition parties remain disingenuous in this pursuit and the ANC types it seems don’t fully appreciate the catastrophe that comes with such a vote.

After all, Ramaphosa and co find themselves between a rock and a hard place – the classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Imagine a terrorist act unfolding somewhere in the country, hundreds dead, and parliament almost immediately tables a bill that would make it legal for all Muslim citizens and Muslim visitors in Mzansi to be registered into a registry so that government can keep track of all of them and their movements on a day-to-day basis.

Human rights violation, I hear some saying, an invasion of privacy others still shout. The bill gets passed by our legislators because they are panicked and fearful. The bill goes to the President to be ratified, but the President knows that if he signs it into law, that would spell the end of his political career and if he does not and another attack happens, he is politically dead too and so is his political party. A rock and a hard place?

Now let’s take Ramaphosa’s dilemma. If he votes in favour of the motion (let us presume the Constitutional Court rules that it is not their prerogative to instruct the National Assembly how the vote – whether public or secret – should be executed), then the President must as per the rules resign, as must his entire executive, meaning the cabinet ministers and their deputies, rendering the government instantly leaderless. The speaker of the house will be the acting President of the Republic and within 30 days the National Assembly will have to elect another individual to be our President. Now, as soon as the 50 plus 1 from the ANC have voted in favour of the motion, the ANC will convene an emergency NEC meeting (the highest decision-making body between elective conferences of the ANC), and they will no doubt view the vote in favour, as treasonous. They will recall the 50 plus 1 Members of Parliament and dare I speculate, expel them from the ANC with immediate effect. This, to state the obvious, will mean that the one person some have pinned their hopes on to challenge Jacob Zuma will not have that opportunity at all because he and his cohorts would be on the outside of the ANC, disgraced members, such as the UDM, COPE and EFF types. The next 51 compliant parliamentary members on the party list will be sworn in and I suspect Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as well and before you know it Ramaphosa and Co would have brought the entire ANC December conference forward because Dlamini-Zuma will be elected into the highest office in the land. Well done Cyril, another President Zuma!

On the other hand of course, if Ramaphosa does not vote in favour of the motion, he will be branded spineless and a traitor not fit to hold the highest office in the land. Poor Cyril and Co, what then to do?

The other major consideration that no-one really takes stock of is the unimaginable emotional drain all this must have on these guys and their families. One minute you are threatened with arrest because you are supposedly involved in setting up some rogue intelligence unit, then you get thrust into the lime light as the saviour Minister of Finance after Nhlanhla Nene, only to be recalled from foreign trips and accused of treasonous acts. Or putting your hand up and submitting a motion of no confidence in the NEC and the next minute you are out of a job. These are the high profile types, there are so many throughout the country that suffer these abuses daily at the hand of the Zuma camp. And yet the placards and slogans remain, grow some balls Cyril and Co.

The opposition are being disingenuous because they know that the above scenario will eventually be the outcome of the vote of no confidence. So the question should be, is it indeed about getting rid of Zuma (a bad leader) or is it about facilitating with the help of some ANC MP’s, the complete implosion of the ruling party.

So what must these guys do? Well, for starters, President Zuma is no fool and it is apparent now why he left Dlamini-Zuma out of his recent cabinet reshuffle because that would free her up to campaign out there and not be side-tracked by “votes of no confidence” and apologies for disagreeing amongst each other in the top six.

I reckon many will argue that Ramaphosa must resign as Deputy President of the country and start to campaign in earnest for the top spot in the ANC and the country. Foot soldiers everywhere are saying they need a General that can lead from the front. To have a “quiet diplomacy” candidate on the road to the ANC December conference is not helpful and certainly will not whip supporters and campaigners into gear.

It is apparent why Ramaphosa cannot support the vote of no confidence, but as to why he is still not coming out guns blazing is perplexing to many both in and outside of the ANC.

To further assist in his campaign efforts there is still the matter of the three court cases that are complicating matters for the Zuma camp.

The first is the challenge by Zuma with regards the “State of Capture” report from the previous Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela. In it she indicated that the President should set up a commission of inquiry but that the presiding judge for the commission cannot be appointed by the President since he is effectively an affected party and hence she proposed that the Chief Justice must be allowed to appoint the presiding judge. Zuma and his legal team are challenging this saying that the appointment of any commission of inquiry remains a Presidential prerogative and that includes the appointment of the presiding judge for such commissions. If Zuma should lose this case and the courts appoint a judge, this could spell dire consequences for our President because a truly independent judge might find harshly against the President in the Nkandla matter.

The second case is that of the 783 charges against the President. The high court ruled that there was no substantial basis as to why the then National Prosecutor, Mokotedi Mpshe, dropped the charges against the President, in fact it found that the dropping of the charges were irrational and the charges should be reinstated. Zuma and his legal team have challenged this at the Supreme Court of Appeal and that court has now ruled that he should make representation in an open court as to why such charges should not be reinstated. Now, bear in mind, whatever is argued and put forward in an open court can and certainly will be used against Zuma as further evidence when in fact the charges are reinstated. So, Zuma is taking a serious gamble here, because if it back fires, he would have exposed himself wide open by the time the real case begins.

The third and final court case is that of the serious political dispute amongst the KZN ANC. Premier Senzo Mchunu and his comrades were firmly in power before Sihle Zikalala and his comrades managed a coup so fast that Mchunu went from Premier and chairperson of the ANC in the province to zero in a matter of days. Now, Mchunu and others have taken the matter to court arguing that the then Provincial conference which delivered the ANC to Zikalala was illegal and unconstitutional according to the ANC constitution. If this court case finally see the light of day and should rule in favour of the Mchunu group, this will also spell disaster for the Zuma camp since it would mean that his strongest support base would be seriously split. The December conference will most certainly be impacted and might have to be postponed until KZN to sorts out its respective branches, regions and provincial leadership (which could take several months).

Lots to consider for Cyril, Gordhan et al, and this Gordian knot. The question now however is, how much longer can you endure the fight on behalf of all of us?

Because one thing is certain, whether people want to accept it or not, if you want to fix the country, you must fix the ANC. DM


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