So, President Jacob Zuma has survived another attack on his presidency this past weekend. It appears that he still holds the majority within the NEC, and that the circle of patronage he has built around his relationship with the Guptas will continue unabated. Hence he has captured both the ANC and the State and the looting will continue….
But for how much longer?
There are 3 factors that influence the answer to that question. The first is the news that broke over this past weekend (Just before when the NEC was to debate the motion for the president to step down) of the extent of the influence that the Gupta family holds over cabinet ministers and SOE board appointments. The various email exchanges prove that the Guptas cast a gigantically ominous cloud over the president and his cabinet, a cloud which Zuma has allowed to envelope him. The fallout to this revelation has been swift, with the family issuing a blanket denial of wrongdoing, and the official opposition Democratic Alliance, quite rightly, laying criminal charges against the president and his cabinet. How the charges will be actioned by the National Prosecuting Authority remains to be seen, but this heaps even more pressure on the president, caused by the other 783 corruption charges that are still under review by the justice system. However, as the NPA has already been captured by the president, you can expect the investigation to be drawn out as far as possible.
The second factor is Zuma’s uncharacteristic threat to his detractors in the NEC not to ‘push him too far’. As reports indicate, the president sat quietly during the debate on Saturday as to whether the motion should be put on the agenda, and then again he was silent during the actual debate. This, of course, is classic Zuma behaviour when his leadership is called into question, both within the ANC and in parliament. However, after surviving the motion, he reportedly addressed the meeting very angrily, saying,
“I have been quiet because I don’t want to harm the ANC, so continue attacking me in the media and you will see.”
What’s more is that while addressing the meeting, he reportedly wagged his finger at his detractors. Now, those of us who are old enough to remember, that finger-wagging characterised PW Botha’s last days as president, before he was ousted as National Party Leader, which ultimately started the process of the dismantling of apartheid and the dawn of democracy. This angry outburst is very much unlike Zuma and shows that he is now feeling the pressure and is losing grip on his own plan to loot the state (which, we all hope, precipitates the beginning of the end of his disastrous tenure as president).
Finally, as reported very recently, he is hemorrhaging support within the ANC, with 62% of ANC voters disapproving of him. Quite naturally, this comes in the light of further evidence of ‘State Capture’ mounting against him, and the growing discontent with the lack of service delivery, rising unemployment and a dwindling economy. With the upcoming National Elective Conference this December, more senior members within the party are beginning to distance themselves from him. This also puts his plans of transferring power to his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma so as to continue the pattern of patronage and capture, while keeping him out of prison. While he, no doubt, will endeavour to fill the conference with sympathisers to his cause, it is clear that the party is growing more and more concerned with the national fallout coming from his incompetent presidency and his relationship with the Guptas.
The uncomfortable truth is that, while he continues to survive using his wily skills and extensive array of pawns within cabinet and the SOE’s, he is increasingly being painted into a corner, and eventually, something will have to give. Should he succeed in his succession plan at the conference, he faces the prospect of a complete desertion by ANC voters, and the ANC losing power in 2019. Should he not succeed, he faces the prospect of his party deserting him to the opposition and ending up in prison.
His only remaining trump card will be the secrets he holds on his fellow comrades. And if he plays that card next year, he will take his party down with him.
More and more, it appears that this might be his only hope…