A top black business organisation has thrown its weight behind President Jacob Zuma – despite being petitioned by Sipho Pityana to swell the ranks of those opposed to the head of state.
Instead, they want him to stay on for his full term, saying anything else would amount to a coup.
They are also lobbying Zuma not to sign the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill into law.
The bill proposes allowing banks to scrutinise the accounts of “politically exposed” persons.
Black Business Council president Ndaba Ntsele said a delegation visited Zuma on Friday and told him it did not support growing calls for his exit.
The council told Zuma its members had been approached by Pityana, the chairman of AngloGold Ashanti, to join a movement opposed to the president.
“We told him [Zuma] … the president [must] … remain in office until the end of his term. We said to him he was elected through [the] ballot and must leave through the ballot.”
Ntsele also claimed that Pityana had invited the Black Business Council to a meeting on Tuesday at which the movement would chart a way forward.
“We did not even ask for the venue because we will not be attending.”
Pityana confirmed they had met on Thursday to determine the council’s role in resolving the situation.
“[I] was heartened to hear that they share my deep concern, and are already in discussions with the ANC at a very senior level in this regard,” he said.
The council’s support for Zuma comes as pressure is mounting for him to resign after the ANC’s dismal performance in the local government elections last month.
Pityana and other party veterans, including Zola Skweyiya and Mathews Phosa, have pleaded for Zuma to vacate the Union Buildings to save the ANC from being ousted from power in 2019.
Party members and other supporters marched on Luthuli House on Monday to demand that Zuma step down.
Ntsele said these calls were driven by white business – the same people he claimed had pushed for former president Thabo Mbeki’s removal.
“We are not apologetic that we support him. There is a sense this is some sort of a coup. That’s not what we want to see in South Africa. We are an example in Africa. We should follow our constitution. Thabo Mbeki was recalled. Now people want to recall Zuma. Will we recall the next one?” he asked.
Ntsele said those calling for Zuma to go had not provided an alternative candidate’s name.
“If you say he must go, you must say he must be replaced by Khumalo, Radebe or Ramaphosa. I guess maybe they know who they want but we don’t want to support populist ideas,” he added.
Ntsele said among the reasons his council supported Zuma were that he had backed it when it broke away from Business Unity South Africa and he had established the Department of Small Business Development. The Department of Trade and Industry’s black industrialist programme is another factor that has earned Zuma favour within the council.
The council urged Zuma not to sign the Fica amendment bill in its current form.
Ntsele said the group also urged Zuma to remove the National Empowerment Fund from the Industrial Development Corporation, saying the fund should be recapitalised to the tune of R1-billion.
Zuma spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga declined to comment.