Zuma risks it all in showdown over Molefe - TechCentral

Zuma risks it all in showdown over Molefe

Jacob Zuma

After months of attacks by opposition parties, labour unions and the courts, President Jacob Zuma now appears to be on a collision course with a more dangerous adversary: his own ruling ANC.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said this week that the party told Zuma’s administration to rescind a decision to reappoint Brian Molefe, who’d been implicated in a graft probe, as the head of the state power utility.

Last month, three of the party’s top six leaders slated the president’s decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, a move that cost the nation its investment-grade credit rating from S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings.

The faction fighting is pushing the ANC across a line that threatens its integrity as a coherent political force, said Aubrey Matshiqi, an independent political analyst.

“It is a line beyond which an organisation such as the ANC becomes a snake that starts eating itself from the tail,” he said.

The standoff comes ahead of a no-confidence motion in Zuma brought by opposition lawmakers and a December conference where the ANC will elect a new leader, who’ll also be its presidential candidate in 2019 elections.

Zuma has indicated that he favours Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, his ex-wife and the former head of the African Union Commission, to succeed him, while his opponents are rallying around deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“Zuma is in control of government and the party is on many levels organising and mobilising against not only Zuma, but the government,” Andre Duvenhage, a politics professor at North West University in Potchefstroom, said by phone. “Conflict is escalating as a result of the succession battle.”

The ANC signalled the depth of its frustration with Zuma’s administration when it responded to Molefe’s reappointment as CEO of Eskom by lamenting the “South African public’s absolute exasperation and anger at what seems to be government’s lacklustre and lackadaisical approach to dealing decisively with corruption”.

So far, Zuma has held the upper hand within the ANC’s decision-making national executive committee, which rejected a proposal to remove him at a meeting in November. While Ramaphosa, Mantashe and treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize criticised Gordhan’s firing, the ANC’s national working committee, which oversees the day-to-day running of the party, endorsed the decision.

Tenuous grip

Yet the 75-year-old president’s grip on power remains tenuous. The national executive committee may again discuss his removal at a scheduled meeting this month, while the constitutional court is considering an application to order a secret ballot for the planned no-confidence vote. Opposition parties hope that will entice ANC legislators to vote against Zuma because it removes the risk of them losing their jobs.

Brian Molefe

“The danger for Zuma is that he overreaches and by going outside of ANC protocol and policies, which are fairly well established, he risks losing or cutting off his support base,” Mike Davies, the founder of political advisory company Kigoda Consulting, said in an interview in Cape Town.

The ANC’s former head of intelligence, Zuma’s eight-year tenure as president has been dogged by scandal, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he violated his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer money spent on his private home. The public backlash contributed to the ANC suffering its worst-ever electoral result when it lost control of Johannesburg, Pretoria and other towns in a municipal vote in August.

In a report last year, the nation’s graft ombudsman called for a judicial probe to determine if Zuma allowed members of the Gupta family, who are in business with his son, to influence cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts. It also indicated that Molefe favoured the Guptas by awarding coal-supply contracts and helping them buy Optimum Coal Holdings. Zuma and the Guptas denied wrongdoing, as did Molefe, who said he resigned in the interests of good corporate governance.

Zuma hasn’t commented on Molefe’s reappointment and justified his 31 March decision to fire Gordhan and make 19 other changes to his executive by saying he needed to bring more young people and women into the cabinet. Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, and ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Molefe’s return to Eskom shows the ANC is no longer in charge of the country, Joel Netshitenzhe, a member of its national executive, told party members at a meeting this month in the central town of Colesberg.

Whatever the outcome, the power struggle between Zuma and the ANC is damaging the party, according to Matshiqi.

“There was a time when the ANC would have been insulated by its dominance in the electoral landscape, but that time has passed,” Matshiqi said. “Ultimately, the ANC will lose power if does not manage these internal divisions.”  — (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP

  • Reported with assistance from Sam Mkokeli


  1. CharlieTango on

    The so-called “ruling ANC” are toothless and powerless. The fact that JZ is still in power 8 years down the line says it all.

  2. Let us be clear on a few issues. Firstly ANC are a collective. They are a party in power and cotrol and will look to remain in power. They are as NEC all involved in business with govt departments and organisations. They sit on boards of major listed companies. The ruling party itself has and may still be involved via Chancellor house securing business contracts from the state which directly or indirectly benefit the party. Those who support the party by donation etc are themselves favoured for soing business with govt. In any event getting rid of JZ will not stop this process. It.may limit a certain family or faction in future business but that is all. All of the organs of state have been captured ensuring either no or very sloppy investigation by the SAPS or Hawks or no chance of NPA pursuing a prosecution. The SOE’s such as transnet eskom SAA etc are huge cashcows to milk state coffers and enrich individuals. The radical transformation being spoken about is to move stste tenders and business away from the established businesses like Bidvest, Anglo etc to new companies that are fully black owned and operated. ANC will issue public statement making it appear they are at odds with each other. They will leak information here and there to give impression of infighting. However within and behind closed doors the agenda of control, of takeover of every part of South Africa is in effect. It did not start with JZ. It was under Thabo Mbeki that the corruption of arms deal happened. People were protected and no investigation or enquiry went anywhere despite evidence in the media showing corruption. This set up the process fro future corruption. We are as Julius Malema has warned heading for a dictatorship not by a person but by a party. Only the electorate can change that.

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