Zuma Watch

South Africa’s coup d’état of a different kind

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South Africa yesterday, amidst high political drama, effectively experienced a coup d’état of a different kind, with an arm of the security establishment also flexing its muscles.

Although he did his utmost to, at almost literally the 11th hour, to put a different spin on it, now ex-president Jacob Zuma was yesterday forced out of office by his own party, the African National Congress (ANC). The same day started with an early morning raid by the Police's special investigative unit, the Hawks, on the controversial Gupta family and their business interests.

It was almost as if there were some echoes of what happened recently in Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe was removed from power.

Experienced intelligence experts which we consulted, said it is very unlike that it is a mere coincidence that the raids on the Guptas came on the same day that Mr. Zuma got a final ultimatum to resign as head of state or be removed by a parliamentary process.

What effectively happened is that control over the matters of state was taken back from the cabal that ‘captured’ it over the past nine years.

Before the end of the day the Hawks confirmed that five “suspects” have been arrested in their operation, with two more, according to rumours including now ex-president Zuma’s son, Dududuzane, who is a business associate of the Gupta, would had themselves over.

By early afternoon it also emerged that a special parliamentary caucus meeting of the ANC has decided to recall Mr. Zuma by supporting a vote of no confidence in him. It came after Mr. Zuma in a morning SABC TV interview indicated that he will not resign.

The vote of no confidence would have happened today, and all the parties in parliament, in an unprecedented move, agreed on a process that would by tomorrow see Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa elected as new president of the country, have him sworn in, and delivering the state of the nation address (SONA) before the weekis out.

New era dawned

It is clear from the collective developments on an extremely eventful day, which was yesterday, that the country has come to the end of the post-liberation phase in its constitutional development – the dawn of a new phase where national interest can sometimes weigh more than narrow partisan party-political interests.

 However, it would be expecting too much to think that opportunism will now totally disappear from political parties’ tactical arsenal.

For this reporter, the excitement of the day was somewhat spoiled early evening by an obvious spam text message from the leader of the official opposition Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, which read: “Tomorrow, let’s remove Zuma! Gather with me outside Parliament at 12h30. Bring everyone – it’s time for our nation to move on!”

 While he is having a hard time to deal with factions in his own party, Mr. Maimane slipped up in parliament, and most people are probably aware that it is an Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) motion, to be slightly amended by the ANC, that would have been put to the vote. I take it that “everyone” can now ignore his call to take to the streets around parliament tomorrow.  

As this reporter was about to go to bed, everything changed again as Mr. Zuma at a press briefing announced that he is resigning with immediate effect, despite what he said in his TV interview earlier in the day, which has his, now former colleagues in parliament locked-up in difficult meetings most of the day to deal with the crisis triggered by him, to ensure that the matters of state can be dealt with in an orderly way.

It also triggered another round of urgent footwork and meetings today to rearrange the work and schedules of parliament.

While yesterday proofed that the parties represented in parliament can cooperate in the national interest, when the need arises, one should also not expect that it will be all plain sailing with, amongst others the EFF, in parliament moving forward.

They just might start their onslaught on Mr. Ramaphosa when he takes to the podium to deliver the SONA. As it became clear very recently that Mr. Ramaphosa will be taking over from Mr. Zuma, the EFF leader Julius Malema promised that how they treated Mr. Zuma will be a picnic compared what they have n mind for Mr. Ramaphosa.

Not the last from Zuma

South Africa, and especially the ANC, has also not heard the last from Mr. Zuma. That was already clear from some of the undertones of his TV-interview yesterday. In a research note to his clients veteran political consultant, Stef Terblanche yesterday afternoon wrote:

“In some of the remarks Zuma made during his SABC TV interview, apart from his refusal to resign, he issued what seemed like a veiled warning to the ANC leadership.

“He somewhat ominously warned the top leaders of the ANC that a crisis could emerge that they ‘will regret’. He said: ‘Because some people may not like this (what is being done to him),’ and ‘if the leadership of the ANC is not careful they might actually cause a bigger problem than we think’”. 

For Mr. Ramaphosa, and the ANC some real testing times probably await, starting with him appointing a cabinet of his own.

According to the Constitution, if the president was removed through a motion of no confidence by majority of members, the president and other members of the Cabinet and any deputy ministers would have had to resign. That would have delivered to Mr. Ramaphosa the luxury of starting with a clean slate on the cabinet front. Now he will have to go though a round of hire and fire to get his own preferred cabinet in place.

Suddenly, it is no longer so sure that we will see a new Minister of Finance introducing the budget next week. It would be a tough call to expect Mr. Ramaphosa to go through the process of a complete cabinet reshuffle I less than a week in which he must still be formally elected, inaugurated, and deliver and then face a debate on a SONA.

It is in this cabinet reshuffle that a future split in the ANC might beome imbedded. In his TV interview Mr. Zuma referred to the breakaway group of ANC members who formed the Congress of the People (COPE) after the ANC had recalled Mbeki as president. He also linked, by implication, his own removal as deputy president to the development of factionalism in the party.  

We might have come to the beginning of the end of the period of state capture and rampant corruption, put the volatility that will come with reconstruction is sure to last for some time to come, intensified by the election campaigning for 2019 that has already started and is sure to now immediately pick up momentum.

Note: We apologise in advance for typing- and other errors in this article, but there was just not enough time to put it through the full sub-editing process before deadline for inclusion in our newsletter arrived.

by Piet Coetzer

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