Zuma fightback set to be nasty

Former President Jacob Zuma
Former President Jacob Zuma
Image: Thuli Dlamini

In February, rumours of a possible state of emergency swirled as the ANC dispatched its top leaders to the Union Buildings to convince Jacob Zuma to vacate the president’s chair.

He would not. He was stubborn and rude, railing against his fellow comrades like a wounded bull.

Last week, author and columnist Jonny Steinberg put a little bit more flesh on the bones of what we knew as mere rumours and speculation at that time.

People around key ANC leaders were so convinced of the possibility of a state of emergency that senior counsel was being consulted about the consequences of such a move.

The picture he evokes of what could have happened is breathtaking: the army on the streets, some ANC leaders and opposition politicians detained, the press gagged and NGOs shut down.

In time more details of how close to the brink of a totalitarian state South Africa came in those crazy days in February 2018 as the ANC tried to dislodge Zuma from power will emerge.

It was clear on the afternoon of February 14, when Zuma gave that rambling, incoherent interview to the SABC, that the man was in the grip of mental agony.

Our future lay in the hands of a man who was flirting with dictatorship. What is extraordinary about the whole situation is that it was the very same Zuma who egged on his minions in the ANC, people like Zwelinzima Vavi and Julius Malema, to shaft Thabo Mbeki way back in September 2008.

He expected Mbeki to fully comply with the ANC request to step down, which Mbeki did in a visionary and moving address to the nation.

Yet when his turn came, Zuma was ready to hold on to power at all costs. He wanted to declare a state of emergency and turn the country into the banana republic it was before 1994.

It is within the context of the events that took place in the ANC as Zuma lost power at the Nasrec conference in December last year to his ouster from the presidency in February that the current upheavals in the ANC must be located.

This weekend, the ANC’s Limpopo conference came under threat as disgruntled members went to court to try to stop proceedings.

Last week, it emerged that Gauteng regional conferences were being cancelled – or maybe not, depending on who was in charge in the party on the day.

Eastern Cape ANC leadership may be recalled and the structure collapsed. What’s going on?

The seeming collapse of the ANC at the moment is nothing but the continuation of the Nasrec war.

The so-called Zuma faction is fighting on all fronts to continue the looting, patronage networks and impunity of the past 10 years.

Ramaphosa is a smart man. He surely understands that the plan that is unfolding has one goal and one goal only: to destabilise the ANC so much that the organisation he now leads cannot function.

At this point some sort of “veteran’s leadership” or a national general council (scheduled for just two years away) is held and he is blamed for the party ’s electoral misfortunes.

The aim, ultimately, is to do what Zuma was contemplating in those days in February: cling to power at all costs, push back against the anti-corruption impetus of the new ANC leadership and unseat Ramaphosa.

Now we hear that the Zuma grouping is starting a new political party, tentatively called the African Transformation Congress.

This new party is a cog in that greater plan to continue looting and evade the law.

The ATC in KZN will cleave the ANC in two. Remember that electoral loyalties are fluid in KZN – the IFP used to be a powerhouse in that province, running the place while the ANC shouted from the opposition benches.

Now it’s a shadow of its former self. The weakening of the ruling party will be blamed on Ramaphosa. And so, if its showing in the province is below 50% of the vote, the ANC will be forced into a coalition.

The Ramaphosa ANC will find itself painted into a corner and will have to make a pact with the devil that is the ATC.

What will the details of that pact be? Will there be some kind of amnesty for Zuma and others?

The Zuma fightback in the ANC is on with full force. Fasten your seatbelt – it is going to be nasty.

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