Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president (Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg)

President Zuma Quashes Revolt in South Africa's Ruling Party

(Bloomberg) -- South African President Jacob Zuma reasserted his control over the ruling African National Congress as a renewed revolt by some of the party’s most senior leaders fizzled out.

The ANC’s national executive committee debated and rejected the option of removing Zuma at a weekend meeting, while calling for a judicial commission to probe whether business wielded undue influence over the state, party Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe told reporters on Monday. Zuma survived a similar revolt in November.

“A number of members of the NEC were of the view that the ANC should listen” to calls for Zuma to go, Mantashe said. “Various contributions in support of and against the appeal to the President to step down were raised. Many more were neither in favor nor against the appeal, but emphasized the need for unity within the organization.”

President Zuma Quashes Revolt in South Africa's Ruling Party

Jacob Zuma


Opposition to Zuma within the ANC’s ranks has mounted since he fired Pravin Gordhan as finance minister and made 19 other changes to the executive on March 31 -- a move that sparked public protests and cost the country its investment-grade credit rating. He has clung to office thanks to continued backing from members of the NEC, most of whom he has appointed to jobs in the cabinet and government. Zuma is due to step down as ANC leader in December and as president in 2019.

Zuma Influence

“The outcome of the NEC meetings shows that Zuma has still clearly got a lot of support and influence,” Abdul Waheed Patel, the managing director of Cape Town-based Ethicore Political Consulting, said by phone. “He is probably going to hang in until December at least and there is a chance he will survive until 2019.”

Zuma has faced allegations that he’s allowed the Gupta family, who are his friends and in business with his son, to sway his administration’s decisions on contracts and appointments. Zuma and the Guptas deny the allegations.

Mantashe said the ANC favored the establishment “without delay” of a judicial investigation into the influence of private business interests over the government, known as “state capture,” since the end of apartheid in 1994.  

Previous such commissions established in South Africa have had a mixed record in uncovering wrongdoing, according to Bonita Meyersfeld, a law professor who heads the University of the Witwatersrand’s Centre for Applied Legal Studies.

“The effectiveness of any commission will be 100 percent determined by who sits on it and who leads it,” she said.

Resignation Calls

Zuma has faced calls to resign since March last year when the nation’s top court ruled that he “failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution” because he didn’t abide by a directive from the graft ombudsman to repay some of the 215.9 million rand ($16.8 million) spent upgrading his private home. Discontent with his rule cost the ANC control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital, in a municipal vote in August.

The next hurdle Zuma has to overcome will be a no-confidence motion called by opposition parties in parliament. The United Democratic Movement has asked the Constitutional Court to order a secret ballot, which it hopes will enable ANC lawmakers who occupy 62 percent of the 400 seats in the National Assembly to vote against the president without fear of losing their jobs.

“Regardless of whether a secret ballot is granted or not by the court, ANC deployees as always are expected to vote in line with the decision of the caucus of the ANC,” Mantashe said.

A study by eight leading academics from four of the nation’s top universities released last week found that Zuma and his allies, including the Gupta family, had carried out “a silent coup” that had enabled them to raid state assets and reap billions of rands from government contracts.

Zuma’s strongest supporters at the committee meeting came from those most directly involved in “state capture and the associated web of factionalism and corruption,” a group of 101 ANC veterans and anti-apartheid activists said Monday in an emailed statement. “They clearly place their own narrow political and financial self-interests above those of the future of the ANC and to the detriment of the best interests of the country.”