South Africa is at an extraordinary juncture. So severe is the corruption, state capture and nepotism surrounding the Zuma presidency that the ANC is – finally – considering recalling him, just as they did Mbeki. This weekend the National Executive meets, but the pressure is building.
As Adam Habib of Witwatersrand University put it in the Star:
“What you have got is an ANC that was a glorious movement now becoming an instrument of a family. Any member of the ANC should be embarrassed by this.”
Just consider these headlines from Business Day:
Mantashe warns of ‘mafia state’ after Jonas’s revelation
Barbara Hogan calls on ANC to ‘clear out the rot’
Or from Daily Maverick
Op-Ed: Treason by the Guptas, mandated by Zuma
Zupta chamber of secrets blown open: Tide turns in ANC
Or from the Sowetan
ANC must deal with this ‘arrogance’ of the Guptas once and for all
And this from Reuters
South Africa’s ruling party ANC says Zuma is not untouchable
And the Star
#Zuptagate: Zuma fights for his political life
By: STAFF REPORTERS
Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma will be fighting for his political life over the next few days after Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas on Wednesday confirmed reports he had been offered the job of finance minister by the Gupta family before the firing of his boss, Nhlanhla Nene.
Zuma faces Parliament on Thursday afternoon and the ANC national executive committee (NEC) this weekend, with the Gupta issue firmly on the agenda of both. There was still no response from the Presidency on Thursday morning, while commentators called on Zuma to respond and for anyone who’d been similarly approached to speak out now.
“Members of the Gupta family offered me the position of minister of finance to replace then-minister Nene,” Jonas said in his bombshell statement on Wednesday. “I rejected this out of hand.” He said the offer made a mockery of democracy as it was Zuma’s prerogative to appoint ministers and the narrative that had grown around “state capture” should be of concern to all South Africans.
Zuma is due to respond to questions in the National Assembly on Thursday afternoon, including whether he consulted anyone before taking the decision to fire Nene and replace him with the unknown Des van Rooyen.
Earlier this week, the former chair of the public enterprises portfolio committee, Vytjie Mentor, said she had been offered the job of minister in that portfolio by the Guptas while Zuma was in a room next door. Recently, EFF leader Julius Malema reminded Parliament that Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula had first heard of his cabinet call-up from the Gupta family.
A Gupta family spokesman called Jonas’s statement “just more political point-scoring between rival factions within the ANC” and denied the family had ever offered government positions to anyone.
“We challenge Minister Jonas to provide a full account of the supposed meeting that took place, under oath, in a court of law.”
ANC national spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the NEC would discuss the matter.
“We will consider this matter so as to reaffirm the authority of the organisation and restore the confidence of our people. The allegations have the potential to erode and undermine the authority of the ANC, as the governing party and the president over the state,” said Kodwa.
He said only the president had the legal authority to appoint ministers and he did this in consultation with the ANC and alliance partners.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe called Jonas’s admission positive.
“The fact that Comrade Jonas has come forward should not be seen in a negative way by anyone, it’s a good thing.
“It encourages other people who have had the same experience or similar to come forward as well,” said Mantashe.
He agreed the NEC would discuss it. “It may come up formally or it may be raised by the floor, but it will come up.”
The issue of state capture was also raised at the ANC’s NEC lekgotla in January, with Zuma coming in for unprecedented questioning over his ties to the Guptas.
The Jonas bombshell comes while the government is trying to avoid a credit rating downgrade, with analysts from Moody’s international rating agency here this week to reassess the situation.
Professor of Economics at the Wits University School of Economic and Business Sciences, Chris Malikane, said the country was dealing with a political-economic crisis.
“It’s not just an economic crisis. While the major economic sectors are pushing us towards junk status, this politically charged issue drives us even closer to it.
“Investors will pull out if they see the Presidency is being controlled by others,” he said. “Investors will then wait to see how this crisis will be resolved before re-investing.”
Professor Susan Booysen of the Wits School of Governance said Jonas’s statement would restore confidence in the country, which was significant with the Moody’s team here, as it showed that leaders were willing to stand up to corruption.
“He might have done us a huge favour in these difficult economic times,” said Booysen.
She said this might be the turning point for the troubled ANC.
Constitutional law expert Professor Pierre de Vos also called Jonas’s statement positive, although he questioned why he hadn’t spoken up at the time of the approach.
“It is good for democracy when people are prepared to stand up (against) abuse of power. If all these things are true, it shows there was corruption, that democracy was undermined and that elected representatives were basically telling voters to stuff off.”
Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) called the matter a “grave threat” to democracy and said it required a “decisive response” from Zuma.
“If other senior public office bearers have had similar approaches, now is the time to take the people of South Africa into their confidence,” said BLSA president Saki Macozoma, chair Bobby Godsell and chief executive Thero Setiloane in a joint statement.
“Our government, the critical institutions of our democracy and indeed the citizenry of our country must choose between being a society governed by law or one captured and directed by private interests.”
Political analyst Professor Adam Habib said if Zuma knew of the Guptas’ alleged activities, it was a “serious dereliction of duties” as president. “What you have got is an ANC that was a glorious movement now becoming an instrument of a family. Any member of the ANC should be embarrassed by this.”
While the ANC might appear reluctant to recall Zuma, as it did with his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, Habib said: “There are moments in history when you have to act decisively. The ANC is fast approaching that point.”