Moloko Moloto, Candice Bailey, Moffet Mofokeng and Dianne Hawker
While President Jacob Zuma is expected to exert his authority to get the divided ANC to focus on policy issues, his treasurer-general is financing the leader’s nemesis and his sports minister is threatening to remove him.
Zuma, who still commands considerable support amid a barrage of attacks from his opponents, has returned from his international trip to a party torn apart by succession divisions and factional battles.
Some of his senior leaders, such as his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, have publicly contradicted his policy stance while some provincial leaders have openly questioned his leadership.
In what could be interpreted as an open declaration of war, ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa has paid the legal bill of Zuma’s political foe and suspended league spokesman Floyd Shivambu.
This is after Shivambu failed to settle punitive costs in an Equality Court case that was brought by Independent Newspapers on behalf of the group’s former political correspondent, Carien Du Plessis.
Shivambu apologised for calling Du Plessis a “white b****” and settled out of court.
However, he is yet to pay this settlement despite the R18 000 punitive costs. The sheriff tried to attach Shivambu’s assets, but Phosa settled the bill.
The payment was made on June 13 after the sheriff was apparently contacted by Phosa, who made an arrangement for the payment.
But Shivambu told The Sunday Independent yesterday that he did not know about the payment.
“No one told me about it. I was not making an arrangement to pay it because I did not owe anybody. No one ever contacted me to tell me that I owed them money,” said Shivambu.
He said he would contact Phosa to withdraw the payment he had made because there was no agreement with him.
The sheriff had notified the law firm of the payment into its trust account only this week.
Phosa could not be reached for comment yesterday.
He was previously criticised for defending expelled youth leader Julius Malema when he was initially disciplined for comparing Zuma to his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.
Phosa, who does not see eye to eye with the president, also attended a rally at Wits University where Malema branded Zuma a dictator.
Yesterday Phosa was scheduled to attend a youth league event in the Free State, but his plane could not land because of bad weather.
The rally turned into a Zuma-bashing event, with supporters chanting “Bring back Malema”.
The rally was addressed by youth league deputy president Ronald Lamola, who said, without mentioning Zuma by name, that there was fear in the ANC and that “you get punished for saying anything”.
This week Lamola, in a veiled attack, said Zuma was turning his village, Nkandla, into New York.
In Limpopo, Zuma also came under fire from Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, who said: “President Zuma was elected by us, and it is us who will remove him.”
Mbalula said the organisation should fight against populism and root out tribalism. Malema also accused Zuma of tribalism last week.
Mbalula told a rally yesterday that “it is not the numbers that must actually intimidate us, it is the ideas”, in what could be seen as a veiled admission that Zuma has the upper hand.
“We must not be intimidated by populism,” Mbalula added.
Ironically, Mbalula – like Malema – used to be a diehard Zuma supporter and once attacked Mbeki in an open letter.
Mbalula said the ANC took a decision to prohibit debate on succession, “but others have a licence to say who they prefer”.
KwaZulu-Natal has openly supported Zuma’s second term as party leader. “In other provinces there are these fanatics, with chicken audacity, and they speak about leaders they support.
“But if you talk about succession, on Monday you will be hauled to (a disciplinary committee) and given a huge file of charges,” said Mbalula, in what could be construed as a reference to the expulsion of his friend Malema.
The president did not get flak only from the youth league sympathisers. ANC Veterans’ League leader Sandy Sejake said Zuma must be removed as party president in Mangaung because of his ties to the powerful Gupta family.
The Guptas and the Presidency have always denied any undue influence on Zuma.
But Sejake said: “Our cabinet members are actually appointed by the Guptas. I have never seen the membership of the Guptas in the ANC.”
He was speaking at the Limpopo Agriculture Department farmers’ awards ceremony in Polokwane this week.
In a subsequent interview with The Sunday Independent, Sejake mentioned that SA needed new leadership.
“The solution is that when we go to Mangaung, we (should) elect leadership that is going to function as a collective, leadership that is tried and tested in the Struggle, people who have the interest of this country at heart,” said Sejake.
However, ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said yesterday that the election of the ANC president this year would be up to the branches of the party.
“The issue of whether comrade president Zuma will be elected or not does not depend on individuals and their pronouncements…
“In terms of what people say outside, it would not change that fact,” he said.
Khoza said the party had “noted” some of the comments made by party members.
“The ANC has raised this many times. There are internal processes to deal with these issues. Once people go outside of the party they are not speaking to ANC structures,” he said.
Zuma’s support came from his ally in the Free State, Premier Ace Magashule, who was re-elected provincial party chairman.
He did not hide his allegiance at the provincial conference this weekend: “If you talk about leadership, come December (Mangaung national conference), you’ll apply your mind on who is the best leader.”
Zuma was expected to use his closing remarks at the Free State conference today to deal with his opponents and also try to exert his authority at the policy conference on Tuesday by nudging the party to focus on policy issues.
Political analyst Karima Brown said it was wrong to perceive the policy conference as a proxy war for succession and that Zuma’s strength is his “ability to create a platform for different ideas to flourish in the ANC”.
“He brings interest groups to come together and says let’s debate – that is his popular phrase.”
Another political commentator, Ebrahim Fakir, said it was “unfortunate that delegates go in to support the position of a certain candidate”.
He added: “It defeats the purpose of the conference. But this is politics and the reality is that delegates will take a position on a basis of who says what. That is what they are used to doing.”