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Split plays into Zuma's hands

Image: REUTERS/Rogan Ward

It's official. The ANC top six is divided over President Jacob Zuma. The truth is, it was never united to begin with.

The governing party's leadership speaks from both sides of the mouth. On the one hand, party president Cyril Ramaphosa speaks of Zuma's anxiety over his future. On the other, Zuma backers Jesse Duarte and Ace Magashule declare that Zuma is secure.

Ramaphosa has insinuated an early departure for the president, while Duarte is emphatic that he will serve out his second term.

Unity was the rallying call at the ANC's 54th conference last year. At the revelation of the result, it was declared that candidate unity had triumphed.

Given that the composition of the top six, which is an amalgamation of the two dominant factions that were vying for the succession, unity was supposed to be the ANC's new mantra.

The desire for unity requires the ANC leadership to give answer to the question: united behind what? Uniting for the sake of unity is unsustainable and could prove impossible, as is becoming apparent.

As the governing party grapples with what to do with Zuma, it is undeniable that the unity forged at the 54th conference is tenuous.

The composition of the top six and the national executive committee (NEC) represent more of a compromise than a united front. Were it not so, Zuma's fate would have been sealed by now.

In its first meeting for the year, the NEC resolved that the top six should work closely with Zuma to ensure coordination between the government and Luthuli House. This is after it could not reach a consensus over a Zuma recall despite robust deliberations.

Ramaphosa has been holding regular meetings with Zuma about the running of government. But top of mind is negotiating an amicable resolution of the dilemma of the two centres of power.

Deciding whether to recall Zuma as president of the republic, and when, was never going to be a straightforward matter.

Given that the members of the top six have dug in their heels and have played open cards about supporting or opposing Zuma's recall, it is unlikely that they will find consensus on this issue.

This state of affairs plays to Zuma's advantage.

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