President Jacob Zuma File picture: Karen Sandison/ANA
Johannesburg - Pressure mounted on President Jacob Zuma to step down as head of state as Cosatu and the SACP increased the heat ahead of the first meeting of the ruling party’s top brass on Wednesday.

Behind the scenes lobbying for the tabling of a motion of no confidence continued among Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s supporters.

This was as Cosatu on Saturday reiterated its call that Zuma should step down as the ANC could not afford to have two centres of power.

But some of Zuma’s staunch backers have vowed that they would block attempts to oust him.

The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) told Independent Media that it would lobby for Zuma’s defence should there be a move to remove him at the upcoming national executive committee (NEC) meeting.

Read: Fresh bid to oust #Zuma

ANCYL national spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize said recalling Zuma would harm the ruling party.

“There should be no reason why the president should go. The ANC should draw lessons from what happened when Thabo Mbeki was recalled,” Mkhize said.

He said the new NEC was almost equally composed of leaders from the factions of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Ramaphosa, which he said would help make it difficult to remove him.

“If you look at the new NEC, it is fairly balanced, and will help should this matter arise at the meeting.”

Youth league president Collen Maine, who was also elected into the NEC, refused to comment.

An NEC member known to support Zuma said the issue of two centres of power and Zuma’s fate had to be openly but sensitively dealt with.

“We all know now that this is the elephant in the room. We need to address it.

"We must, however, ensure we do not repeat our mistakes with our eyes opened. We need to discuss it and explore ways in which we can resolve this problem without bruising the organisation,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Several NEC members closer to Ramaphosa have indicated that they were waiting for the matter to make its way onto the agenda of the NEC meeting to discuss it.

They included Deputy Agriculture Minister Bheki Cele and former ANCYL deputy president Ronald Lamola, who have both been calling for Zuma’s recall.

Lamola said Zuma’s fate had to be discussed and decided by the new NEC.

“The matter needs the collective wisdom of the NEC,” Lamola said.

The ANCWL could not say if it still stood by Zuma.

President Bathabile Dlamini and NEC members such as Nomvula Mokonyane have always advocated that Zuma should be allowed to complete his term in 2019.

Speaking to Independent Media on Saturday, women's league member Toko Xasa refused to comment if the league would still reject Zuma’s recall attempts should it form part of the agenda in the NEC meeting.

“We are waiting for the agenda. The agenda has not been circulated yet, so we don’t want to talk about something that is not there.”

Xasa said the ANCWL would soon be meeting after the ANC’s 106th anniversary celebrations set for January 13 in East London to reflect on their position on Zuma.

The tide against Zuma had turned with the revelations of state capture.

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande slammed Zuma for appealing the recent ruling by the high court in Pretoria on state capture which set aside the president’s review application bid of former public protector Thuli Madonsela's report.

Solly Mapaila, second deputy general-secretary of the SACP, and David Makhura, Premier of Gauteng, at the 23rd Joe Slovo commemoration at the Avalon Cemetery in Soweto where calls for President Jacob Zuma's recall were reiterated. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA

The court also ruled that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng chooses the judge to head up the commission.

Zuma has maintained he is the only one empowered by the constitution to select who leads the inquiry.

But Nzimande, also speaking at the Slovo event, charged that Zuma was conflicted.

"We don’t understand why the president is appealing this.

"This appeal by the president compromises the integrity of the ANC. Why is the president appealing this thing because it is clear that he is conflicted,” he said.

“You can’t appoint a commission to investigate yourself. It is a very clear principle,” he said.

"Even if they arrest us and put us in jail, it is fine we will say these things. Much as he has a right, but he is only delaying this independent judicial commission inquiry into state capture,” he said.

Nzimande said they appreciated ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe’s comments that there was nothing that was not going to be discussed at the ANC NEC meeting.

Mantashe on Friday slammed those that were saying that Zuma was not going anywhere, saying the new leadership of the party must analyse the organisation broadly.

Also read: Mantashe calls for new ANC leaders to sweep clean

Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the first action the ANC NEC meeting should take was to implement the judicial inquiry into the state capture.

Ntshalintshali also warned Ramaphosa that workers had not given him a blank cheque and that he should not change his language against state capture.

He once again called on Zuma to resign.

“There can’t be two centres power. There must be one president. Zuma must step down.”

On Saturday, Mantashe said there were leaders in the government who were rushing to appoint their own people to state-owned enterprises and departments just before Ramaphosa becomes head of state.

“The biggest challenge facing the ANC today, more than policies, more than implementation, more than programmes is to rid itself of the image and reputation of being corrupt.

"When it rids itself of corruption, it will appreciate the fact that state capture is not a myth,” he said.

“It is a reality, where people want to appoint directors-general in a rush; want to appoint directors of state-owned enterprises in a rush so that before Cyril takes responsibility, they have put in their own people.

"It is a corrupt activity, that kind of appointment, because all you are doing is you are electing a president in Nasrec and you are putting up brackets around him,” he added.

Without mentioning names, Mantashe warned against a culture of a personality cult in the ANC, where leaders were worshipped and ended up being bigger than the organisation.

Mantashe was part of the group of ANC leaders who argued that Mbeki had become a personality cult and had to be removed.

Political Bureau