PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma survived a "coup" within his ranks on Monday night, with moves to unseat him as ANC president ending in a stalemate.
The ANC will have a meeting at 2pm Tuesday on the outcome of the national executive committee (NEC) meeting.
Earlier indications were that two-thirds of those on the ANC’s NEC, which began the meeting at the weekend in Irene, outside Pretoria, would call for Zuma’s axing over numerous scandals which have recently engulfed his presidency.
Accusations of state capture by Zuma’s family friends, the Gupta brothers and a decision by under-fire National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams to charge Finance Minister and ANC NEC member Pravin Gordhan had turned the tide against the party president.
Those who are reported to have come out against Zuma at the NEC meeting are members of his cabinet such as Naledi Pandor, Siyabonga Cwele, Rob Davies and Derek Hanekom. Hanekom is alleged to have raised a motion of no confidence on Saturday.
The move forced Zuma’s supporters on the NEC, who were not present at the meeting, to rush back to Pretoria.
In Bloemfontein, Fikile Mbalula, who in 2012 lost his bid to become ANC secretary-general, was at the SA Sports Awards, but had to hastily rush back to shore up Zuma’s faltering support.
In Stellenbosch, another Zuma supporter and NEC member, Tony Yengeni, was attending the wedding of Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, but word of a rebellion at Irene had him scrambling for Cape Town International Airport to catch a flight out of the Mother City.
Supporters of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa last night conceded that removing Zuma could damage their bid against Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who is favoured by some sections of the ANC to succeed Zuma as president at next year’s party conference.
An ANC source said the objective, for now, would be to weaken Zuma to such an extent that he would limp along in his presidency without the ability to sway the succession race.
A senior ANC member in the Western Cape last night said: “None of us expected the shock, none of us expected this move.”
NEC members were told yesterday they might have to clear their diaries, and could possibly spend another day holed up at the St George’s Hotel.
Another ANC source said the most vocal voices against Zuma had come from ANC backbenchers in the National Assembly.
“The August local government elections had showed them that the party was losing support and their seats in Parliament would be threatened come 2019.
"They’ve been asking for action to be taken against Zuma to arrest the party’s decline,” said the ANC insider.
The ANC lost three metropolitan municipalities to cobbled alliances as the party’s support dipped below 50% for the first time in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth).
A former member of the ANC national executive said previous attempts to rein in Zuma had been rebuffed by the same people who were now opposed to him.
“Zuma was only supposed to serve one term. We saw that the Guptas were a problem in 2010 but nothing was done about them, and now we’re in this situation,” he said.
Yesterday morning, both camps – those in support of the motion of no confidence in Zuma and those against – were confident of victory.
A source in the anti-Zuma camp said if it went to a vote, they would be eight ahead, while an insider in the pro-Zuma lobby believed they would have a four-vote advantage.
However, the pro-Zuma camp was trying to avoid a vote at all costs because they believed decisions in the NEC should be settled by consensus.
The strategy of ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s camp, which wants Zuma removed as president of the republic, was to get all those in the NEC who were against Zuma to speak yesterday to demonstrate their opposition, a source said.