Why Zuma’s early exit is a myth
Almost everyone in the ANC now knows that President Jacob Zuma is a liability to the party and has proved to be a wrecking ball to its support base‚ even in diehard constituencies.
It is perhaps only Zuma himself and his posse of cheerleaders who rallied around him at his birthday celebrations in April and on the stage outside parliament after the vote of no confidence on August 8 who still believe he is a political rock star.
When the ANC suffered a big drop in support in the local government elections last year‚ the leadership was in denial that Zuma was the biggest turn-off factor for voters. But reality has since dawned as South Africans made their voices heard‚ particularly with the series of anti-Zuma marches across the country in April.
Now senior ANC members are more emboldened to speak out against the president and the phenomenon of state capture‚ which he enabled by ceding powers to the Gupta family‚ because they know this is a concern across society.
The Sunday Times reported that supporters of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are considering an early exit for the president to allow the ANC some recovery time before the 2019 elections.
The report said some in the “premier league” — the Dlamini-Zuma lobby group — were considering removing Zuma in an “amicable way” if their faction won at the ANC’s December elective conference.
Zuma’s possible early exit would also be on the table if Cyril Ramaphosa were elected as the next ANC leader so that the damage control operation can commence.
But now it appears that people within the Zuma camp have the same idea.
They need to bear in mind‚ however‚ that the reason Zuma has thrown his backing behind Dlamini-Zuma is not because he is convinced she has marvellous leadership qualities but for his own survival.
Despite stories about an “amicable” exit and amnesty deals doing the rounds‚ Zuma has no intention of retiring to Nkandla early and is determined to complete his term.
He needs to do so for several reasons.
For as long as Zuma remains behind his desk at the Union Buildings‚ his friends and family have access to information and state resources.
While an early exit might relieve the ANC of dead weight‚ the political and business network around him will then be dislodged ahead of time.
This network will fight to keep Zuma where he is as they fear being shafted in the same way those around Thabo Mbeki were pushed to the periphery after his recall.
Secondly‚ although the Gupta empire is falling to pieces‚ Zuma has to keep the protection racket going to prevent arrests and prosecution of the key players. Once he leaves office‚ those in the police and National Prosecuting Authority who are frustrating a credible investigation of state capture and the evidence contained in the Gupta emails could also be booted out.
So people like the Gupta brothers‚ Duduzani Zuma and the implicated cabinet ministers rely on Zuma to keep the sniffer dogs away for as long as possible.
Zuma’s own troubles with the law are another reason he would not be keen on packing up his desk.
With his corruption charges still hanging over him‚ Zuma needs the top lawyers the state currently pays for. Once he is retired‚ he might have to finance his own defence as there is no guarantee that his successor will allow the state to pay his legal fees.
Another reason Zuma will not want to leave office is his hyper paranoia. The president currently has an enormous security contingent around him but that is not enough to assuage his fears of a plot against him.
Once he steps down‚ his security detail will contract. Zuma wants to keep the ring of steel around him‚ as well as the other trappings of power.
Whoever is considering the president’s early exit needs to realise that Zuma does not have the ANC or the country’s interests at heart and therefore cannot be talked into leaving quietly.
And while they might be fretting about the ANC’s electoral performance in 2019‚ that is the furthest thing from Zuma’s mind.