By Muza Mpofu-The Star
President Jacob Zuma has until Tuesday next week to step down as head of state or risk facing a fresh palace revolt.
Several ANC national executive committee (NEC) members told The Star that another motion of no confidence was on the cards against Zuma if he did not voluntarily leave the Union Buildings by the time the party’s top brass meet on Wednesday.
The ANC NEC will be meeting for the first time on Wednesday since Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa won the presidency of the governing party last month, creating two centres of power.
Talks on Zuma’s fate started at the ANC conference and have now morphed into an elaborate plan to remove him in the wake of another damaging Constitutional Court finding that Parliament failed to hold him accountable on the Nkandla matter.
With Zuma facing impeachment from the highest office, it has emerged that Ramaphosa’s supporters want to test their strength in the NEC by tabling yet another motion of no confidence against Zuma.
The Star spoke to at least five ANC NEC members, all of whom confirmed that former tourism minister Derek Hanekom was preparing another motion against Zuma.
The embattled president has already survived two motions of no confidence in the NEC, as well as eight in Parliament.
But since he stepped down as ANC president, and the loss of his preferred candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to take over the party reins, his critics are baying for blood.
The president is facing calls to step down from inside the ANC, and from its alliance partners, the SACP and Cosatu.
Hanekom said he hoped that Zuma would leave voluntarily, but he would not be drawn on the planned motion of no confidence.
He has previously come under fire from NEC member and Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi for using social media to attack Zuma.
Kubayi was opposed to public calls from ANC leaders for Zuma to be removed.
When contacted, Kubayi said: “Let’s leave it, I do not want to talk publicly about this matter.”
An ANC NEC member from the Eastern Cape, the province that gave Ramaphosa the most support, said Zuma’s continued stay at the Union Buildings amid the pending judicial commission of inquiry and the court battles he was engaged in would deal a huge blow to the party’s electoral prospects next year.
“We saw how the negativity of our national politics can impact on how people believe the ANC can capably run local spheres of government when we lost municipal elections in 2016, especially in Gauteng.
“Given everything that is happening, from the state capture inquiry and the rulings against the president, it will help our movement if we find a way to ensure that the image of the organisation is not overshadowed by these developments anymore,” the leader said.
A recently elected NEC member said that while any attempt to discuss Zuma’s departure would be met with opposition by those loyal to him, many members of the leading structure were concerned that the president was creating problems for both the party and the government.
“He has been the one who has been at the centre of the controversies that have led to the ANC’s loss of support, so any renewal in government affairs should be led by someone other than him. The new president (Ramaphosa) has been campaigning on the basis of rooting out corruption and dealing with those implicated in state capture. How can he lead that programme in government?” the leader asked.
SACP national spokesperson Alex Mashilo reiterated the party’s calls for Zuma’s removal, saying it was in his interest and that of the country to step down.
“We hope that the new leadership of the ANC has the best interests of the country at heart. They should be concerned about the problems that our country is facing, and they must seek to address them,” he said.
“What we respect is the independence of the elected leaders, and we would not want to single out certain members and say they must act this way or vote this way. They are capable of making that decision,” Mashilo said.
But Zuma’s removal would not be easy as he enjoyed widespread support in the NEC, with ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini and ANC Youth League leader Collen Maine in his corner.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga has warned that any hasty move to recall Zuma without first trying to win over his backers would probably backfire on Ramaphosa.
“Even though Ramaphosa is the president, neither side won at Nasrec, hence the mixed bag of the new NEC in terms of its composition. Whatever is being plotted needs to be carefully planned, “ Mathekga said.
He added that while Ramaphosa based his campaign on rooting out corruption, his failure to garner a decisive majority during the conference meant he had to negotiate everything.
“That anti-corruption ticket did not win the conference, so he will not easily act on Zuma or anyone implicated. It goes without saying that every day Zuma remains in power will further diminish the ANC’s prospects of winning next year, and his supporters must realise that, but that does not mean they will be a pushover,” he said.