Cyril headache as Zuma refuses to go quietly

Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.

Former president Jacob Zuma may no longer be occupying the highest office in the land, but you'd be foolish to think that he has lost power.

Zuma is "street-smart" and that is evident in his subtle tweets over the past couple of months -most of them directed at his successor President Cyril Ramaphosa.

While the two displayed a united front in Zuma's backyard, KwaZulu-Natal, in January towards the ANC's January 8 statement and manifesto launch in Durban, clearly the pair's "beef" is far from over.

Zuma's approach to the conflict seems to draw from his experience in the ANC underground, where he functioned as the head of the then banned organisation's intelligence department.

Ever since he joined Twitter, he has been having what resembles a guerilla warfare tactic of attacking his target's soft spots when least expected.

Take his tweet soon after COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota made that sensational claim in parliament that a young Ramaphosa, in the early 1970s, "sold out" his comrades by allegedly writing to the police Special Branch (SB) distancing himself from Struggle activities.

Zuma responded with a tacit line, in deep KZN Zulu: "Iyabhubhudla inkezo! Uyizwile na?" Loosely translated this means "something is brewing, did you hear it?"

It was a line that Zuma first publicly used at Nasrec, just before the results of the party presidential race between Ramaphosa and his challenger Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma were announced. Zuma, who backed Dlamini-Zuma, seemed to be suggesting that Ramaphosa was about to lose. Ramaphosa won.

Zuma's tweet suggested he believed that the "sell-out allegation" would stick and that this was the beginning of the unravelling for the Ramaphosa presidency.

It is, therefore, no surprise that when Zuma faced allegations on Sunday that he had abused the state security services to fight his political opponents when he was president, he reacted by insinuating that those behind the report, including Ramaphosa, had collaborated with the apartheid government in the past.

Ramaphosa had, on Saturday, taken an unusual step of releasing the report of the high level review panel, headed by former police minister Sydney Mafumadi, into intelligence services to the public.

One of the findings in the 127-page report is that SSA kept an eye on Ramaphosa in the
build-up to Nasrec.

This prompted Zuma to take a swipe at Ramaphosa and the compilers of the report on Sunday.

"I've never sold out nor written letters to the SB. I feel nothing when apartheid spies call me corrupt. I hope people are not opening a can of worms which they might regret," he tweeted.

A day later, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, perceived to be Zuma's pointsman at Luthuli House, seemed to express misgivings on the report when he told eNCA that the ANC knew nothing about it.

All of this indicates major troubles ahead for Ramaphosa. Political pundits tend to believe that Ramaphosa would easily quell a pro-Zuma revolt within his ranks by winning convincingly at the polls on May 8.

But judging by Zuma's refusal to give in and the fact that at least 40% of those who have made it onto the ANC list of candidates for parliament are Zuma loyalists, it would not be smooth sailing for the president after the polls.

Suddenly the next National Assembly looks likely to be a hostile place for the president.

Therefore, how is Ramaphosa going to respond to the challenge posed by Zuma and his loyalists?

Does he try to neutralise the strength of his ANC critics within parliament by wooing Julius Malema's EFF closer to him?

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