Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa and the African National Congress (ANC), survived the biggest challenge to his power the past two days but he’d be foolish to call it a win. It’s possible that our country, as a consequence, will limp with him into injury.
Despite media hype that’s surely been linked to the grandstanding of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Parliament, Zuma had never been challenged where it counts which is by the ANC’s top leadership.
During the latest ordinary meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom ask Zuma to step down as President (which is only supposed to end in 2019). Hankom was supported by other Cabinet members, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa who would become interim President.
No one knows for sure what happened. It was rumoured that the NEC was deadlocked but that the majority of the Cabinet would vote against him. So why didn’t they?
Conjecture says that if the vote had been forced, the anti-Zuma faction would have weakened their intention to make Ramaphosa their leader, instead giving impetus to the pro-Zuma faction’s intention to eventually make his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, President.
What neither side wants is an ANC split that squirts out a rival party. The goal doesn’t appear to be to do what’s right for South Africa but rather to grab as much power as possible, keeping opposition parties yapping at the ANC’s ankles.
It’s clear that Zuma will decide what happens with Zuma and South Africa. He cannot fire the rebelling ANC NEC members and MPs but he can fire ministers of the Cabinet. If he did, replacing them with loyalists, it would become Zuma’s Mugabe moment. And, if he did, there’d possibly be a rebellion in Parliament. That’s something he wouldn’t want as it’d only take a fraction of the ANC, voting with the opposition, to unseat him.
Have no doubt that Zuma is under fire, limping not winning. It weighs against him that the rand strengthened 1.6% at news of the rebellion.
South Africa is at a crossroads, either heading dangerously nearer to autocracy or a little bit closer to democracy. However this plays out, this is going to be difficult period for our country.
The ANC is expected to release news to the media this afternoon. Don’t expect it to make the situation any clearer.