Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma’s decision to dump SACP leader Blade Nzimande in yet another cabinet reshuffle has set the stage for an open war - upping the stakes in the run-up to the party's December elective conference.
Interpreted as the final push by Zuma and his allies, the decision to change the executive for the seventh time since 2009 - and twice this year - was condemned by the ANC at Luthuli House, while the SACP and Cosatu vowed to intensify efforts to remove what the organisations referred to as a “delusional”, “run-away” president intent on “selling the country to the highest bidder”.
Zuma’s move, which saw the rand dip, has also been described by the SACP as a clear plan by him to anoint his successor in December.
The decision has also further strained relations within the tripartite alliance (ANC, SACP and Cosatu), with the SACP warning that the relationship was on the brink of collapse.#CabinetReshuffle: Zuma has lost his mind, says Sadtu
#CabinetReshuffle irks ANC allies
This again raised the spectre that the SACP was likely to cut ties with the ANC and contest the 2019 elections against the ANC if Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is not elected.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe led the charge against Zuma on Tuesday, saying the reshuffle was a recipe for instability in the government.
He singled out Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize and Ayanda Dlodlo, who were appointed in April during Zuma’s last reshuffle in the Home Affairs and Communications portfolios respectively, and have now swapped roles less than seven months later.
“That is a formula for instability and, therefore, it can’t be the correct and sustainable way to deal with that issue,” Mantashe said.
On whether the ANC had raised this “formula for instability” with its deployee Zuma, Mantashe said it had, adding: “You must appreciate that there is a contradiction of the party role - the ANC - and what the constitution of the Republic gives prerogative to the president to do. That contradiction will have to be managed with the greatest of care,” he said.
This was the clearest indication that there was a schism between Zuma at the Union Buildings and the party at Luthuli House, with Mantashe noting that they were merely “informed”, not consulted, as was the case with the removal of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
“The ANC can have a strong view on a particular matter, but if the president invokes his prerogative (given by the constitution), then the ANC has little space to move.”
Mantashe conceded that this latest reshuffle would “negatively impact” relations within the tripartite alliance, caused by the unceremonious removal of the SACP’s leader.
“We had an alliance secretariat meeting (last week), where we tried to put it (alliance relations) together again. And this reshuffling of the general secretary of the party (SACP) is going to undo some of the work that we have done,” Mantashe decried.
Mantashe’s views on the president’s constitutional prerogative to reshuffle his cabinet were echoed by leaders of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) - structures of the ANC known to be allies of the president.
MKMVA national executive committee member Carl Niehaus countered Mantashe’s contention that the reshuffle would cause instability, arguing that Zuma made changes to “consolidate (government) for the effective implementation of radical economic transformation”.
“I fail to understand how the reshuffle creates instability in governance. We are dealing with ANC members and we are all ANC members,” Niehaus said, adding that “egos and personalities” should not get involved in dismissing Zuma’s prerogative as president.
His assertions on Zuma’s “prerogative” were echoed by ANCYL spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize, who emphasised that ANC members joined the organisation voluntarily and should not be motivated “by material benefits”.
Taking a swipe at the SACP and Cosatu, Mkhize said the current government was an ANC-led one, which the party consulted its partners on but did not govern with.
“All members of Parliament and those of the executive - first and foremost - must be members of the ANC. So, when the ANC deploys its members, the ANC reserves the right to redirect its members. Therefore, there should not be an issue that this alliance partner will feel sad, because everyone who is deployed in government is deployed as a member of the ANC,” the ANCYL spokesperson pointed out.
However, Mkhize’s argument of the ANC having a final say in deployments was repudiated by Solly Mapaila, the SACP’s first deputy general secretary, who said the alliance did not belong to an individual (Zuma).