The storm clouds are gathering. The waves are choppy. But is Zuma about to be engulfed by the kind of crisis that swept away Thabo Mbeki?
My initial answer was no. He is too well entrenched within the ANC; has too many allies that he put in place. His support in the National Executive and among the ‘Premier League’ of provincial leaders is too powerful.
But I am beginning to have doubts.
Bloomberg quotes Daniel Silke, director of Cape Town-based Political Futures Consultancy as saying: “The tide is turning against Jacob Zuma.”
The Economist suggests that “close watchers of the party say that a “turning process” against Mr Zuma is under way.” [See below]
Still, it is not certain. But there are three straws in the wind.
Firstly, the number of senior, respected ANC veterans who have come out against Zuma.
This includes: Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg, Trevor Manuel, Ben Turok, Cheryl Carolus. Some MK veterans also called for the president to stand down.
They have been joined by Religious organizations including the Anglican Church of SA‚ the Evangelical Alliance‚ the South African Christian Leadership Initiative have backed the campaign to oust him. “Our first prize is that the president must resign,” Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa of the Methodist Church of South Africa told reporters Friday after meeting with ANC officials.
A mass march is planned for 27 April.
Secondly, some ANC branches have come out openly demanding that Zuma must go. This is particularly true in Gauteng. At the same time one should not over-estimate this. The president is still popular in large parts of the country – particularly in the rural areas.
Thirdly, business is now backing away from Zuma’s financial supporters – the Guptas. They have been forced to resign from the company they controlled. This is how Bloomberg put it:
“The resignations of Atul Gupta and Varun Gupta from Oakbay Resources and Energy (Pty) Ltd. came after financial-services groups including accounting firm KPMG LLP dropped the company and other Gupta-controlled businesses as clients as questions about the family’s influence over Zuma mounted. Sasfin Holdings Ltd. has ceased being Oakbay’s broker, while Barclays Africa Group Ltd.’s Absa unit and FirstRand Ltd.’s First National Bank stopped providing banking services to all businesses of Oakbay Investments, the holding group. Zuma’s son, Duduzane, stepped down as a director of the company’s Shiva Uranium unit, Oakbay said.” [Full article below]
Where does that leave us?
Zuma has certainly lost support, both inside and outside the ANC. Is he finished? We will not know until larger numbers of ANC branches have made their views plain. But he is no longer secure.
Jacob Zuma has survived a ruling that he broke the law, but his grip on the ANC is slipping
“ARE we ready?” asked Jacob Zuma, shuffling awkwardly as he prepared to address the nation. South Africans had paused their Friday nights and gathered around televisions to watch the president’s prime-time broadcast, called barely an hour earlier. There was a momentous air to it all: the last time a presidential address had been called on such short notice it was to announce the death of Nelson Mandela.
The latest call, on April 1st, came after a spate of scandals. A day earlier, South Africa’s highest court had found that Mr Zuma had breached the constitution by disregarding an order to repay public money he had spent on his private mansion, Nkandla. (He claimed that a new swimming pool was a security feature, and therefore a legitimate expense.) Many hoped he was about to announce his resignation.
But despite looking tired and cowed, Mr Zuma fought on. He apologised, not for failing in his sworn duty to uphold the constitution, but for the “frustration and confusion” around the powers of the public protector, an anti-corruption ombudsman who had ordered him to repay the money. His dissimulation fooled neither the public nor the upper echelons of his own party, among which discontent is rumbling.
Given the dominance of the African National Congress (ANC), which has governed South Africa since the first democratic elections in 1994 and took 62% of the vote in 2014, Mr Zuma’s future depends on the party. Mr Zuma understands this only too well: he got the top job after the ANC tossed out his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.
For now, Mr Zuma remains in charge. The party batted back an impeachment vote introduced into parliament by the opposition with not a single ANC MP dissenting. The party’s unwavering defence of the president was partly motivated by a desire not to hand the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) a victory.
It also reflected a desire for self-preservation: MPs are nominated by their party rather than being elected directly. (Each party wins seats in parliament in proportion to its share of the national vote.) Having run the ANC’s intelligence operation when it was in exile, Mr Zuma knows which of his colleagues’ closets are filled with skeletons, so MPs fear him. Even so, as his popularity with voters withers, his grip over the party is slipping.
The ANC is like an elephant, the party’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe once said: a lumbering beast, it is slow to change direction. Yet close watchers of the party say that a “turning process” against Mr Zuma is under way. It began in December after he fired a well-regarded finance minister, replaced him with a political neophyte, and then, under pressure from his party and the markets, reversed course a few days later. It has gained pace with recent allegations that a wealthy Indian family close to the president had been meddling in cabinet appointments, including offering the finance minister’s job to his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas (who said no).
More serious still was the Constitutional Court ruling, which has prompted some ANC bigwigs who worry about the rule of law to turn against Mr Zuma. What is more, a court will soon decide whether to reinstate some of the 783 charges of corruption, fraud, money-laundering and tax evasion against Mr Zuma that were dropped shortly before he came to power in 2009.
Trevor Manuel, a successful former finance minister, has joined the calls for Mr Zuma to resign. He says the president committed “a violation of the key oath of office of the head of state”. A union representing 16,000 soldiers demanded that Mr Zuma be removed and urged its members to join “mass action campaigns” against him. The South African Communist Party, allied with the ANC, refrained from criticising Mr Zuma directly, but said that the court judgment “should be a clear warning signal to the ANC”.
With pressure mounting on Mr Zuma, some fear the struggle may turn nasty. The DA accuses the government of settling political scores with a special anti-corruption police unit, known as the Hawks, whose commander was appointed by Mr Zuma in 2015 not long after a High Court judge ruled that he (the commander) was “dishonest”. Thuli Madonsela, the public protector, says she is under investigation by the unit. So too is Pravin Gordhan, the finance minister. More worrying still was a robbery at the offices of the Helen Suzman Foundation, a liberal think-tank that often criticises the government. Earlier this month it asked the courts to suspend the boss of the Hawks, Berning Ntlemeza. Days later, armed robbers broke in and stole documents, computers and hard drives.
The Constitutional Court verdict was a reminder that even presidents are supposed to obey the law. The ANC, by sticking with a leader who appears not to believe this, is making a mockery of the democracy that it and others fought so hard to establish.
Members of a family with ties to South African President Jacob Zuma resigned from management positions in the companies they control following a wave of controversy surrounding the Guptas’ alleged influence over the country’s leader.
The resignations of Atul Gupta and Varun Gupta from Oakbay Resources and Energy (Pty) Ltd. came after financial-services groups including accounting firm KPMG LLP dropped the company and other Gupta-controlled businesses as clients as questions about the family’s influence over Zuma mounted. Sasfin Holdings Ltd. has ceased being Oakbay’s broker, while Barclays Africa Group Ltd.’s Absa unit and FirstRand Ltd.’s First National Bank stopped providing banking services to all businesses of Oakbay Investments, the holding group. Zuma’s son, Duduzane, stepped down as a director of the company’s Shiva Uranium unit, Oakbay said.
The company contacted Zuma and the ministers of finance, labor, mines “to express deep disappointment over the decisions of our banking partners and to make it very clear that livelihoods are at risk if we are unable to restore these important banking relationships,” co-director Nazeem Howa said in letter to staff which was obtained by Bloomberg.
The decision comes as pressure is mounting on Zuma to resign as president following a court ruling over his response to a graft ombudsman report and after allegations by senior officials of the ruling African National Congress that the wealthy Indian family offered them cabinet posts in exchange for business concessions. The claims have spurred probes by the party and the Public Protector. The Guptas deny any wrongdoing.
“The scrutiny has been considerable over the course of the last few months,” Mike Davies, an analyst with Kigoda Consulting in Cape Town, said by phone. “It doesn’t look like this is going to dissipate soon.”
Atul Gupta stepped down as non-executive chairman of Oakbay Resources, a listed-unit of Oakbay Investments, while Chief Executive Officer Varun Gupta is also leaving the company, the mining group said in a statement Friday. Oakbay said in a separate statement that a major Asian bank, which preferred to remain anonymous, was servicing the company.
“This looks like somewhat of a strategic retreat,” Anne Fruhauf, vice president at New York-based risk adviser Teneo Intelligence, said in an e-mailed response to questions. It is “a damage limitation exercise in response to the growing political toxicity of the Gupta’s business affairs,” she said.