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Jacob Zuma supporters are not just a fringe group of howlers

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Sibusiso Ngalwa is the politics editor of Newzroom Afrika and chair of the South African National Editors’ Forum.

Following the recent judgment against Zuma, one can only expect the pro-Zuma forces to launch an offensive against the judiciary.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

On Friday, 17 September the Constitutional Court dismissed Jacob Zuma’s application for his 15-month sentence to be rescinded. Not only did the former president’s application fail to meet the requirements for a rescission but the court also found his antics to be part of his “creative attempts” to avoid punishment.

“Mr Zuma intentionally declined to participate in the contempt proceedings, and disdainfully dismissed a further opportunity when invited to do so. Mr Zuma only now attempts to justify his absence from this Court.

“His plea of poverty is totally irreconcilable with his extra-curial statements that not only unequivocally evinced his resolve not to participate in the proceedings, but also displayed his attitude of utter derision towards this Court,” said Justice Sisi Khampepe in delivering the Constitutional Court’s majority ruling.

But these facts will not matter to Zuma’s supporters, who have already mounted a spirited propaganda campaign – depicting the former president as a victim of an intolerant judiciary.  

Mzwanele Manyi, who speaks on behalf of the Jacob Zuma Foundation, said the court’s ruling will have a negative impact on foreign direct investment. As to how the two issues are related remains a mystery.

As expected, the ANC will publicly assuage society with platitudes about respect for the rule of law and the supremacy of the judiciary. However, it is known that the party’s structures hold the courts in similar contempt to the way Zuma does.

Following the recent judgment against Zuma, one can only expect the pro-Zuma forces to launch an offensive against the judiciary.

At a meeting with the party’s Top Six officials in July, the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Executive Committee accused the courts of playing into the political field.

“It is worth noting that the government and the ANC lost almost all court cases in the period between 2014 to 2019… It is also an open secret that cases brought to court against the government and the ANC post the 54th national conference are generally dismissed, and mostly with costs to the litigants. The central question would be what, if any, has been practically done by the government and movement to secure so much consistent victory in court cases, except an impression that judges are players in the political space,” said the report. The 54th congress is the December 2017 conference where Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as president.

This is a serious charge coming from KwaZulu-Natal, given its influence within the ANC.

Since the 2007 Polokwane national conference, KZN has been the ANC’s biggest province, sending the highest number of delegates to the national conferences. With their strength in numbers, the province has become a powerful bloc with considerable influence over ANC decisions.

It is almost impossible for any candidate to win a conference without the support of KZN. I use the word “almost” deliberately, given that Ramaphosa was narrowly elected president without the backing of KZN in 2017 at Nasrec. The province had fully thrown its weight behind Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as its preferred candidate. It is now a record of history that, had it not been for the then Mpumalanga premier and ANC provincial chairman David Mabuza making an 11th-hour flip – directing some of his supporters to Ramaphosa – the ruling party would have had its first female president.

The province may have lost at Nasrec after Mabuza demonstrated to them that dominating in numbers alone and without strategy counts for nothing.

It was a mistake that KZN will not make again going forward. It still wants to be the most powerful province of the ANC as the clock inches closer to the next elective conference in 2022.

It is not enough for ANC leaders to just issue general statements about respect for the rule of law. They must directly challenge their comrades.

But the leadership won’t say a thing. Most will be seeking re-election next year. Ramaphosa does not want to offend KZN, especially with the local government elections a few weeks away.

It would be worrying if this view is generally held within the party. For a while many had characterised the Zuma supporters as a fringe group of howlers. Clearly this is not the case.

We have seen ANC conferences taking rogue resolutions that have had an adverse impact on our democracy.

The Scorpions were disbanded within six months after the problematic 2007 ANC conference resolution.

We are still paying the price. That’s why we should watch the coming provincial conferences of the ANC very closely. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    the moment the Zupta side of ANC regains control of the ANC is the moment that marks the beginning of a Zimbabwe spiral in this country.

    Having seen the movie before, investment will stop and Capital will be directed elsewhere.

    So yes, all eyes are on ANC internal politics

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