28 May 2017

South Africa: Ruling ANC Debates Motion to Remove Zuma

Photo: GCIS
President Jacob Zuma at Freedom Day 2017 celebrations.

Cape Town — The top leadership of South Africa's ruling African National Congress is this weekend debating a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.

The news was first broken by the South African news site, News24.com, and confirmed to Bloomberg by five separate sources. The party's National Executive Committee began a meeting outside Pretoria on Saturday and it was scheduled to continue on Sunday.

Responding to speculation ahead of the meeting, the party's secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, said the issue of Zuma's removal was "not on the agenda" but refused to rule out the possibility of members of the committee—which comprises top ANC leaders—tabling a motion.

News24 reported that the motion was tabled by Joel Netshitenzhe, one of the party's leading intellectuals and strategic thinkers, who served as head of government communications in the administration of former President Thabo Mbeki.

As the news of the move broke, Johannesburg's City Press newspaper published what it said were emails revealing the indebtedness of Zuma and his allies to the controversial Gupta family of Johannesburg.

The emails, allegedly leaked from inside the Guptas' business organisation, showed how the family "seduced Cabinet ministers and CEOs of state-owned companies with opulent hotel stays and chauffeur-driven trips in luxury cars to their home in the exclusive Dubai suburb of Emirates Hills," News24 reported.

The publication of the allegations against the Guptas - which were also leaked to the Johannesburg Sunday Times - is the latest of a series of setbacks for Zuma and his supporters as the party prepares to elect his successor in December. It comes days after the ANC lost a local election in Zuma's home province, KwaZulu-Natal, and after academics and the churches released reports saying corrupt business people had "captured" state-owned enterprises.

The academics said that while they agreed "with the intentions of the governing party's commitment to 'radical economic transformation'," the policy was being used "as an ideological smokescreen to mask the rent-seeking practices of the Zuma-centred power elite."

A study by the South African Council of Churches, which strongly backed the country's liberation struggle and continues to have ANC members and supporters among its executive members, identified what it called "observable trends of inappropriate control of State systems through a power-elite that is pivoted around the President of the Republic that is systematically siphoning the assets of the State."

The study added: "It now seems that the problem is far greater than corruption, but organized chaos... [W]hat appears to be chaos and instability in government may well be a systemic design of the madness that ills our governmental environment – a chaotic design."

This report has been expanded upon since first publication.

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