President Jacob Zuma’s resilience prevailed once again at the ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting last weekend, with a range of proposals to deal with complaints against him thrown in the hat but ultimately defeated in the same manner as the motion that he step down.
And when the meeting ended on Sunday night at St George Hotel in Irene, Tshwane, it was Zuma’s turn to blast those who gunned for his head.
In a hard-hitting 70-minute speech he, for the first time, defended himself and reminded some that they have the privilege of serving in Cabinet “at his prerogative”.
City Press heard from both the pro- and anti-Zuma camps that the first proposal to be shot down came from ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who had wanted a smaller team of NEC members to discuss Zuma’s future and report back to the structure.
The proposal, which Mantashe tabled soon after ANC policy guru Joel Netshitenzhe called for Zuma to step down, included the formation of a five-a-side team from those supporting the motion and those against it in a bid to avoid a repeat of a lengthy and confrontational debate.
(The motion against Zuma was the second one since November last year.)
The committee would then craft a resolution on the matter that would be adopted by the NEC.
However, except for the likes of former public service and administration minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, “most people rejected the proposal”.
An NEC member in the Zuma camp said while the proposal seemed to level the playing field, it actually meant that Zuma’s numerical majority in the NEC would be nullified.
Later Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti proposed that a committee of ANC veterans be set up instead to look into the Zuma matter.
“Many people supported that one and it could have been a resolution but somehow it fell through the cracks,” an NEC member said.
His colleague said the idea of a “council of elders” had long been defeated at the ANC Polokwane conference in 2007 and it would not work because veterans had developed political interests, including calling for Zuma to step down.
But Zuma last weekend did not take kindly to the allegations cited as grounds for the motion of no confidence against him, according to sources.
He refused to leave the meeting despite being the subject of the discussion on the motion.
Up to 71 senior ANC leaders spoke during the debate on the motion but almost half of those who spoke, 29, neither backed nor rejected the proposal.
“Most people spoke negatively against the Guptas and what is happening, even if some people decided not to support the motion.
"They spoke about the growing alienation of support from ANC members and the shift in terms of electoral support,” said a party leader opposed to Zuma.
But those on Zuma’s side said people such as Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies had a mandate from the SA Communist Party to take an anti-Zuma stance.
At least three sources said that when he closed the meeting on Sunday a furious Zuma defended himself and denied that he was to blame for the ANC’s electoral decline.
He apparently pointed at Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla and remarked that “some serve in Cabinet under his prerogative”.
A close associate of the Guptas also said Zuma hit out at those who accused him of being captured, saying they were themselves captured by other interests.
He also raised the issue of a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, saying that he had no objection to the proposal and in fact wanted the probe to be broadened.
NEC member Philly Mapulane declined to comment on information that he accused Zuma of campaigning for his ex-wife and former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him as ANC president.
Mapulane, according to those who attended, said Zuma’s conduct was in breach of the NEC decision earlier this year that no one should campaign until the succession debate was formally opened.
He cited as examples a radio interview that Zuma did in January as well as his comments last month during a church service at Dlamini-Zuma’s birthplace in Bulwer in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
However, Zuma denied the allegations, saying that the event was held in honour of Dlamini-Zuma and that he was only giving an account of what he knew about her life as a struggle activist.
Do the failed motions against Zuma show the ANC’s organisational strength or its weakness?