Picture: Wikus De Wet/AFP
President Jacob Zuma has caved into pressure from within and outside of the ANC to establish a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture.

On Tuesday night on the eve of the meeting of the ANC top brass where his detractors were set to use allegations of state capture to oust him, Zuma dropped a bombshell, saying he has given the green light for the inquiry.

In a statement, Zuma said Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has provided him with the name of Mlungisi Zondo to head the commission.

After months of resistance by Zuma to comply with former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s recommendation that he appoints the commission, the president said the matter could no longer wait any further.

“The commission must seek to uncover not just the conduct of some, but of all those who may have rendered our state or parts thereof vulnerable to control by forces other than the public for which government is elected,” he said.

“There should be no area of corruption and culprit that should be spared the extent of this commission of inquiry. I am also mindful of the concerns raised by the Public Protector in her report, wherein she lamented the lack of resources to conduct a wider inquiry into this matter,” he added.

Zuma said he was taking legal advice on his appeal that he was the only one who was legally empowered to appoint who can head a commission.

Tuesday night’s announcement follows a similar move by Zuma when he opened last month’s ANC elective conference with the announcement of free tertiary education for poor students and those from the working class.

Read: Zuma appoints #StateCapture Commission of Inquiry

Zuma’s latest move comes as behind the scenes lobbying intensified for his removal by the NEC. 

His backers have promised war against ANC leaders who will today push for his removal as state president, saying they are prepared to go down with him if needs be.

The much anticipated special meeting of the ANC national executive committee is taking place on Wednesday at the ICC Hotel in East London, where the party his holding its 106th birthday celebrations.

Zuma’s fate is set to feature prominently at the meeting under the topic of two centres of power.

At least six ANC NEC members on Tuesday told Independent Media that the party’s top brass could not avoid discussing Zuma’s future.

An NEC member close to Zuma said they would put up a big fight to defend the president.

Speaking in IsiZulu, the leader gave an example of how those around a king had to lay their lives down in his defence.

“Inkosi (Jacob Zuma) ayilali phansi ingandlalelwe. Uma inkosi ifa ngaphambi kokuba ingcwatshwe kumele bube khona isinsizwa ekufanele zilale. Uma kungakabi khona izinsizwa ezilele angeke ingcwatshwe inkosi ngoba alali enhlabathini. (A king does not fall alone. There are those in his line of defence who should fall first before the king falls. There are men who should fall before the king fall, and if those men have not fallen the king will never fall).

Calls for Zuma to step down have polarised the party since the election of its new President Cyril Ramaphosa, which created two centres of power - Zuma leading the state while Ramaphosa leads the party.

On Tuesday Zuma’s office issued a media alert that the president will on Thursday host his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta at Dr John Dube residence in Durban. This is where Zuma met with Ramaphosa on Sunday.

An NEC member aligned to Ramaphosa said Zuma and those close to him would use the unity call to help shield him from being removed.

"We are dealing with a beast here and removing him may not be as easy. Some of us mistake the unity call for a ceasefire on dealing corruption and rebuilding the battered image of the ANC."

"Why must the old man (Zuma) be the precondition for our unity?"

"But one senses that some among see his removal as a personal threat to them," he said.

The NEC member said Zuma would not easily leave as this would weaken him given numerous allegations of wrongdoing and court cases against him.

"We must afford the new leadership to discuss this at length, but there is little doubt that the president may refuse to leave and choose to stay until next year instead," he said.

Wednesday's NEC meeting is also set to discuss the implications of the recent Constitutional Court judgment which ruled that parliament failed to hold Zuma to account over the Nkandla matter. The court also ordered the National Assembly to review section 89 of the Constitution, which dealt with the removal of the president.

On Tuesday, parliament announced that the subcommittee on the review of the National Assembly rules will meet on Thursday and Friday to discuss section 89 as per the court order.

Another NEC member aligned to Ramaphosa said members said Zuma matter said they argue Zuma that he should go because “the economy will not recover with him at the helm.”

“It is also well known that we need to resolve this thing of two centres of power. The country when the is suffering because of the decision he had made in the last period.

“We need to improve our economy and that cannot happen when he (Zuma) is still in power,” he said.

Political Bureau