Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma faces renewed attempts to unseat him on different fronts, with some ANC MPs ready to use the secret ballot, if granted, to again show their disapproval of his leadership.
This while ANC senior MP Mathole Motshekga revealed on Saturday that Zuma would be forced to resign as president at the party’s national elective conference in December if he refused to quit on his own volition.
With the ANC policy conference approaching on Friday, several MPs told The Sunday Independent that the discussions among ANC caucus members have markedly changed from just voting for the party line into a motion of no confidence in Zuma.
The policy conference starting on Friday in Nasrec, Joburg, was set to be a dress rehearsal of the succession race between those supporting Zuma and his preferred successor, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
On Thursday, the Constitutional Court threw the ball firmly in National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete’s court, ruling she had powers to institute a secret ballot.
On the same day, Zuma wasted no time expressing his disapproval of the secret ballot, a move which piled pressure on Mbete on what decision to take.
On Saturday, some ANC MPs said should a secret ballot be allowed, they would vote against Zuma.
One senior party MP said while there was a standing decision taken by the ANC national executive committee to support Zuma, “I suspect a few people might vote differently, maybe more".
Another senior MP said a possibility of new discussions in the caucus existed, following the Constitutional Court ruling.
“The new discussion in the caucus on the court judgment is there because even some of the senior officials said there will be another discussion.”
But another long-serving ANC MP said the caucus will back Zuma. “You are dealing with ANC deployees in Parliament on an ANC mandate. The situation should not have even landed in Parliament. The NEC should have given guidance on this matter because it will cause tensions,” he said.
“I hope the leadership will guide us because the situation on the ground is shifting against the ANC. If this is not addressed by December it will cause further damage to the ANC,” he said.
On Friday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said those believing that removing Zuma would solve the ANC’s problems were misguided.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu insisted that ANC MPs would toe the party line irrespective of whether it was a secret ballot or not. He said this week it was the position of the ANC that it would not support opposition parties in their bid to oust Zuma.
The secret ballot has become a proxy in the battle not only to oust Zuma but weaken his preferred candidate Dlamini Zuma to succeed him.
On Saturday, Motshekga said they would force Zuma to resign as head of state at the ANC elective conference in December.
“We had said we will appeal for the president to step down.
“If he doesn’t, the conference is coming and in that conference we will have no choice but to oust him,” he said.
Motshekga was addressing the National Union of Mineworkers’ youth structure at Olympia Park Stadium in Rustenburg.
He added that the time had come to root out corruption.
“The December conference is for us to say the looting must stop.”
The president this week told Parliament the ANC had elected him into power and that he was fit to lead the country.
Asked whether Zuma was leading the party in the right direction, Motshekga said: “All that we are saying is that if we have leadership that (undermines) people, we can no longer have that leadership.”
So divided is the alliance on the issue of succession that Zuma warned the the SACP looked set to contest elections on its own.
The communists and Cosatu would prefer that Ramaphosa takes over the leadership from Zuma.
On Friday night, the president told a provincial council of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal that the party needed to discuss the culture of breakaways when it gathers for the policy conference on Friday.
“We still have not sat down to find out what are the causes of the challenges (facing the party).
“Right now there is a looming breakaway threat” Zuma said.
“Even Cosatu (has been) breaking away even the (SACP) looks set to follow suit.
“It is speeding towards breaking away,” the president added.