Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma could move towards consolidating his grip on power after winning yet another bid to oust him, this time from within the ranks of the ANC national executive committee (NEC), among them some senior cabinet ministers.
He was thrown a lifeline by the NEC, the highest decision-making body between conferences, when it shot down calls for him to step down during a marathon meeting at St George’s Hotel in Irene, which ended on Monday night.
While some said the president’s support within the powerful NEC seemed weakened, political analysts warned that Zuma wielded enough power to wiggle himself out of trouble, and that he wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Read more: Zuma’s rollercoaster ride of power, passion
Addressing the media in Joburg on Tuesday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the NEC had debated the call for Zuma to step down and later shot it down.
“Some NEC members wanted the matter put through a secret ballot. This was rejected as the NEC doesn’t seek to conclude matters through voting,” he said.
Following the NEC meeting at the weekend, where Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom tabled a motion of no confidence against Zuma, which was supported by several other ministers, political analyst Ongama Mtimka said a drawn-out battle between the anti- and pro-Zuma factions within the ANC and the government was more likely.
“We are likely to see instability and acts of desperation on both sides. The pro-Zuma faction may try to weaken their opponents by cutting their access to resources through a cabinet reshuffle. The Zuma critics may try to effect change within the legal framework and lobby the opposition on a motion of no confidence against Zuma,” Mtimka said.
He said Zuma wielded enough authority to “act unilaterally and move towards a dictatorship” as more members turned against him.
Political analyst Dr Mcebisi Ndletyana said the ANC came out of the NEC meeting looking “extremely irrational and their behaviour inexplicable”.
The ruling party, he said, couldn’t explain why Zuma should remain president.
“One thing certain about Zuma is that he will not back down. He will use the entire spectrum of power given to him as president to protect himself. He’s not going anywhere,” said Ndletyana, adding that divisions in the ANC had reached crisis proportions.
Political analyst Dumisani Hlophe said the reason Zuma kept winning the battles against him could be the fact that “he understands his power and position within the movement and is using that to the maximum”.
He lashed out at the “personification of South African politics”.
“The challenge we’re facing is that, as a society, we’ve fallen into this analysis of individuals while the challenges facing South Africa are structural”. Those, he said, pertained to inequality, poverty and landlessness, among others.
The capitalist dimensions in the country were hampering efforts to address the challenges, Hlophe added.
“There’s elite contestation of political power within the ANC, but also across political parties such as the DA and the EFF, hence you would hear them calling on Zuma to step down. That’s the mark of our politics in South Africa,” he said.
“My main disdain is that the political discourse is very, very flawed. It disregards what matters the most,” added Hlophe.