12 June 2019

South Africa: Zuma Allies Parliament Exits Expose ANC Cracks

The resignation of former South Africa President Jacob Zuma allies from Parliament after they were overlooked for cabinet positions has left the ruling Africa National Congress keenly watching their next move.

While analysts cite an economic motive in the resignations - the pensions for ex-ministers is higher than a member of Parliament's salary - the fact that most of them are allies of the disgraced Zuma suggests a political motive too.

Those downplaying the impact of the resignations suggest President Cyril Ramaphosa is cleaning house but others warn the resignees could "come back to bite" him.

"All the people who resigned were dropped from their ministerial positions.

It has a lot to do with protecting their income which would have declined if they stayed on as MPs," political analyst Ralph Matheka said.

More than 10 senior politicians have resigned as legislators.

Former ministers earn $162,000 (2.4 million rand) per year in pension compared to $74,000 (1.1 million rand) annually for MPs.

The latest to resign were Bathabile Dlamini and Derek Hanekom. Nomaindia Mfeketo, Jeff Radebe, Siyabonga Cwele, Susan Shabangu, Tokozile Xasa and Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba had resigned earlier.

Nomvula Mokonyane, the former environmental affairs minister and ex-home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba resigned before the cabinet was announced two weeks ago.

Ms Mokonyane also declined to be the House chairperson in the National Assembly.

Parliament places a cut-off date by which ex-ministers should decide whether to continue as MPs.

Dlamini, however, bucked the trend saying she had been used as a scapegoat in a campaign orchestrated through the media to portray some ANC members as unsuitable to lead.

"Some ANC members were using the media to demonise people like me, while painting themselves as committed, clean and innocent," she said in her resignation letter in reference to corruption allegations that hang over Jacob Zuma's administration.

Such grievances persuade political analysts like Mandla Mzimela that the resignations may return to haunt President Ramaphosa.

"The Zuma faction is onto something because most of the MPs who resigned are from his camp unless if Ramaphosa is cleaning house. But either way, it's not looking good for Ramaphosa," Mr Mzimela said.

He said President Ramaphosa cannot afford to take his eye off party politics given the factional fighting in ANC.

"They now have all the time to mobilise and get rid of him. It would not surprise me if Ramaphosa becomes the first South Africa President to fail to finish a single term," Mr Mzimela said.

A cryptic tweet by Mr Hanekom, a Ramaphosa ally, that he was ready to begin his "next chapter quite soon," did not help in discerning the import of the exits.

Analysts warn there could still be more resignations before the State of the Nation address on June 20.

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