Johannesburg – Notes from a meeting of the ANC’s National Working Committee, sent in error to media houses on Tuesday night, show that President Jacob Zuma is still firmly in control as leader of the organisation – and therefore of the country.
While a wide range of matters was discussed at the meeting, which started on Monday and ran into Tuesday, the notes suggest Zuma’s position was in no way under threat.
In fact, it appears that officials who broke rank in the wake of the firing of former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, were brought to book for their “ill-discipline”.
The trio of Top Six members – Gwede Mantashe, Cyril Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize – were highly critical of Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle, especially the sacking of Gordhan and Jonas.
The notes, written in longhand, suggest that the three were made to apologise. “Officials apologies for display of disunity, using Constitution where it suits them. Explain your ill-discipline.”
Zuma is not mentioned at all by name, but the groupings that opposed him, come in for heavy flak, according to the notes.
“Condemn behaviour of SACP and Cosatu,” says one entry.
Another reads: “Cde Kathrada funeral – manner in which some NEC members and Ministers behaved.”
A statement said the communication had been sent out in error and "is not the official statement of the ANC nor does it represent the views of the ANC".
The party is set to hold a press conference on Wednesday where many of the issues raised in the minutes are believed to be addressed.
The notes emerged a few hours after former National Assembly speaker and ANC veteran Frene Ginwala gave Minister of Water Affairs Nomvula Mokonyane a dressing down for how she defended the president.
On Tuesday night, Mokonyane, one of Zuma’s staunchest supporters, launched a spirited fight-back from the president’s camp against his critics.
Zuma also received backing from an unlikely ally, prominent businessman Richard Maponya, who reportedly said he was justified in firing Gordhan because the latter was defiant.
This was after the ANC alliance partner Cosatu joined the SA Communist Party in calls for Zuma to step down yesterday, while ANC veterans reiterated their calls that the president be recalled from the top post.
But in Zuma’s defence, Mokonyane used an ANC Youth League rally in Ekurhuleni to hit back at the party’s integrity committee, saying its credibility was questionable.
She accused the commission, led by ANC stalwart Andrew Mlangeni, of having leaked a letter to the media on Monday in which Mlangeni reportedly called on Zuma to step down following the reshuffle.
Mokonyane, who left the national working committee (NWC) meeting still under way at Luthuli House in Joburg to address the ANCYL faithful, threw several bombshells.
In a no-holds-barred impromptu speech, the minister said the truth would emerge after the NWC meeting on how ministers were in fact consulted on the cabinet reshuffle.
Mokonyane also lambasted former president Kgalema Motlanthe, national executive committee member Derek Hanekom and Gordhan.
“Funerals are a place where we mourn and not make celebrities out of those who are not happy. They need to be respected. That’s not how we do things,” she said.
Mokonyane defended the appointment of Malusi Gigaba as finance minister, saying he was “a child of the ANC” and had ridden through the ranks, unlike Gordhan.
“He (Gordhan) was not an economist. But President Jacob Zuma took him and put him in that position and now this…”, she said to rapturous applause.
The ANCYL also threw its weight behind Zuma.
“Jacob Zuma is president today, president tomorrow and president moving forward, and we are not going to be deterred.
“Everyone who stands in our way for radical economic transformation must move out of our way,” ANCYL secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza told a crowd that cheered and applauded.
Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina criticised leaders who spoke out against Zuma by using press conferences instead of following correct procedures as underlined in the ANC’s constitution.
“What we have seen today is unprecedented,” Masina said, referring to the press briefings that have been held by Cosatu, ANC stalwarts and the SACP.
He said those who sought to lead had to wait their turn to appoint ministers.
Ginwala, the integrity commission’s deputy chairperson, dismissed Mokonyane, saying she had no authority to speak on behalf of the ruling party.
Speaking to The Star last night, Ginwala said Mokonyane was the “same lady” who had told Bekkersdal residents that the ANC didn’t want their “dirty votes”.
“She’s never denied it. That on its own speaks for itself. Whoever does that?“ It’s a statement of fact that she said we don’t want your dirty votes. With what authority is she speaking for the ANC? You can quote me on that.”
Earlier, Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali told reporters that the organisation’s biggest issue was Zuma’s decision not to consult alliance partners on the reshuffle.
He said the fact that many of the ministers who were underperforming were not reshuffled proved that Zuma’s shake-up was influenced by political loyalty and not merit.
Cosatu said it held Zuma personally responsible for this week’s credit downgrade due to his “inactive and negligent leadership and disruptive actions” that had led to ratings agencies “interfering in the country’s politics”.
“We think it’s a serious debate that will need proper engagement. We believe our call has merit. We believe that if we have to save the movement, the individual becomes secondary,” said Ntshalintshali.
Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini said they now looked to the ANC’s NWC to respond with a united answer that the party was done with slate politics, the perception of arrogance and that they were willing to lead the country as the alliance expected them to.
The extended NWC, which included the party’s provincial secretaries and chairpersons, was locked in a marathon meeting last night. It was expected that it would come out in Zuma’s defence.
The ANC veterans reiterated their call that Zuma should step down, saying he had “crossed the line” and that he was a law unto himself.
They confirmed at a press briefing on Tuesday that the ANC’s integrity commission had written to Zuma calling on him to resign.
Former SAA board chairperson Cheryl Carolus reminded Zuma that he was not representing his “own jacket but the wishes of the African National Congress”.
She lashed out at Zuma for “defying and dividing” the ruling party, saying no president in the history of Africa’s oldest former liberation movement had done what Zuma has done.