Ace plays his cards‚ but his support of Zuma could backfire

Free State Premier Ace Magashule faces internal revolt.
Free State Premier Ace Magashule faces internal revolt.

A bid to rally more support for a fight-back plan to keep President Jacob Zuma in power seems to be in full swing‚ a political analyst said on Monday.

This after ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte recently came out in support of Zuma‚ with Magashule calling him a "wonderful president" and launching a scathing attack on "factions" in the ANC who wanted him out.

Analyst Susan Booysen‚ of Wits University‚ said the comments by Magashule and Duarte were “powerful and also dangerous".

"They are taking the risk of splitting the ANC... But I do not think at this stage that it is an indication that they have a majority support in the top six‚ but it’s two very powerful positions‚ who jointly can create havoc.”

Booysen agreed it could be seen as a last ditch attempt by Magashule to try and secure a future for himself in the party beyond ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa.

Magashule this weekend came out to bat for Zuma‚ contradicting previous public statements by other party leaders that an exit for Zuma was being negotiated.

“Jacob Zuma is the president of the country. There is no decision which we have taken as the NEC ... it is only factional leaders who want to be populist who are making noise…these undisciplined members who engage the newspapers‚” he said during a speech in KZN. “Just because he is no longer president of the ANC doesn’t mean he should not be supported. What a wonderful president he was.”

Duarte also came out in support of Zuma‚ telling City Press he would not be going anywhere until national elections next year.

Their comments are framed against a backdrop of MP’s drafting new rules for the removal of a sitting president following a Constitutional Court ruling in earlier this month‚ effectively declaring that the National Assembly failed to hold Zuma to account for possible breaches of his Constitutional obligation.

Aubrey Matshiqi‚ an analyst with the Helen Suzman Foundation‚ said no one should be surprised by the comments‚ even if they were in direct contradiction to comments made by Ramaphosa at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“We should not be surprised given that the top six leadership is split in the middle. The NEC itself is split in the middle. So this kind of favouritism is to be expected. It occurs in the context of a perception that Ramaphosa is beginning to stamp his authority. Internal ANC politics as well as the country’s politics is leading when it comes to matters of governance as we have seen with measures that have been taken at Eskom and elsewhere.

"What you see here are Zuma supporters who seem to be countering that perception‚ and reminding us that Ramaphosa is not in control of the ANC in its entirety.”

Matshiqi said the Zuma faction was still firmly in control of the secretariat of the ANC‚ and Ramaphosa still had to iron out a majority for himself inside the party.

“What [the comments] signal are the challenges that Ramaphosa is going to face when it comes to uniting the party. He will not be able to make decisions without the consent of the Zuma faction.

“When it comes to making tough decisions - such as the manner and timing of Zuma’s departure‚ such as how those in Zuma's cabinet who are incompetent and corrupt should be dealt with and how issues such as state capture and rent seeking should be tackled - his moral and political courage is going to be tested.”

Matshiqi said Ramaphosa would not be able to take big steps without consent from the Zuma supporters in the ANC leadership.

“It is also a reminder that we should moderate our exuberant euphoria and expectation following the election of Ramaphosa.”

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