Nkandla 'Tea Party' could help avert a constitutional crisis

Former President Jacob Zuma and EFF CIC Julius Malema, enjoying a cup of tea in Zuma’s Nkandla homestead. Picture: EFF Twitter account

Former President Jacob Zuma and EFF CIC Julius Malema, enjoying a cup of tea in Zuma’s Nkandla homestead. Picture: EFF Twitter account

Published Feb 7, 2021


Johannesburg - The meeting in Nkandla on Friday between former president Jacob Zuma and EFF leader Julius Malema was meant to prevent a “constitutional crisis”. EFF former national chairperson advocate Dali Mpofu, Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina and former African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni, who are considered to Zuma’s strong allies, were also part of the unusual gathering.

Three insiders, who were part of the discussion, yesterday spoke to the Sunday Independent on condition of anonymity. They said Zuma was persuaded to reconsider appearing before the State Capture Commission and to raise all his objections and unhappiness about Justice Zondo from the stand.

Another insider said the meeting between Malema and Zuma had nothing to do with political realignment but everything to do with the red berets president's desire to help avert a potential constitutional crisis.

He said Malema, who had put his political differences with Zuma behind him, was concerned about the impact of the former president's decision to defy the Constitutional Court ruling on the rule of law in the country as well as South Africa's international standing.

This came after Zuma publicly rejected the Constitutional Court's ruling that he must appear before the Zondo Commission.

"You cannot have an eminent person in the country who publicly says the Constitutional Court, any other court, the commission and any other tribunal can go to hell. And nobody goes and talks to that person. It's not done. We are not going to have a country. We must close South Africa. And ANC elders do not go to him. In the midst of the vacuum, somebody must provide leadership. You can't condemn this man to the latter without offering some advice. Don't throw him into the den of wolves," said a source.

"If we don't advise him, how are we going to call out Yoweri Museveni (Ugandan president), how are we going to call out Emerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwean president)? We can. We must first deal with our domestic issues. Otherwise, it will damage the country's international standing." The source added that Malema was handling the matter in his capacity as "a peace-deal maker".

On whether the meeting meant Malema and Zuma, whose relationship was frosty for years, had smoked the political peace pipe, the source added: "We can quarrel with you, but once America attacks you, we close ranks."

Malema yesterday refused to comment about the gathering. “I am not going to make comments until the right time,” he said.

Another insider said this was a crusade to bring all black leaders together regardless of their political affiliation, South Africa belongs to all, but right now, the country is in bad shape, politically and otherwise.

Another insider said there would be different “tea gatherings” over the next four weeks with the aim of “reclaiming South Africa from White Monopoly Capital.”

“We must make it clear that these meetings aren’t about Zuma versus the Zondo Commission, but they are about reshaping our country and bringing it to its former glory.

“Of course, it is inevitable that the Zuma matter would be discussed, but it wouldn’t be central to the discussions.

“It must be made clear that nobody is forcing Zuma to go to the commission, but we persuaded him to reconsider his decision not to appear. The ball is in his court. We can’t force him, and we will respect his final decision on the matter.

“We all have our different views with the way Zondo runs the commission, but we can’t have differences with the Constitutional Court if we still want to live in a democratic society that respects the rule of law. And that’s the message we delivered to former president Zuma,” one of the insiders said.

“Let’s deal with the Zondo commission kangaroo court separate from the Constitutional Court.”

EFF spokesperson Vuyani Pambo, who was also part of the gathering, told journalists who were gathered outside the five hour “tea party” that “the meeting went very well”.

Yesterday Pambo refused to make any comment about the gathering.

United Democratic Front leader General Bantu Holomisa said he would welcome the gathering if its main purpose was to persuade Zuma to appear before the commission.

“Zuma has a lot of serious questions to answer and I am not saying he is guilty of anything but we expect him to clear the air and take the country into his confidence. A lot was done using his name and he must simply tell us if he was aware or not,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with having tea but there would be something wrong with the agenda and vision of such a gathering if it isn’t for a good couse.” Andile Mngxitama yesterday said he was “pissed off” that Zuma hosted Malema on Friday.

“Julius betrayed Zuma so many times and humiliated him multiple times and I am pissed off that the former president allowed him to come to Nkandla.

“We have reason to believe that Julius was sent to Nkandla by White Monopoly Capital to go and lecture Zuma about constitutional democracy. This tea party gathering was an ill-conceived idea and an insult to those of us who are standing for the real revolution in this country,” Mngxitama said.

After he left the ANC and formed the EFF, Malema was seen as leading a campaign to get Zuma out of office.

Zuma’s nightmares began when Malema and his party won seats in the National Assembly and ridiculed the former president every time he was in Parliament. They led several disruptions and walked out while Zuma delivered his his State Of the Nation Address on some occasions. EFF members would chant “bring back the money” as they walked out of Parliament.

However, Malema has always said that “in politics, there are no permanent friends and enemies”.

Political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga said although the meeting was to try to compel Zuma to appear before the commission, the two could possibly have had a discussion on how they could challenge the aftermath of the commission.

“I have indicated that the only thing that the meeting could be about should be about Malema convincing Zuma to go to the commission. But that does not mean the two cannot even talk about how to challenge the aftermath of the commission.

“There is no other way they can come out dignified from this. I don’t think Malema can go there and convince Zuma not to go there, knowing what this will make him look like. It will make him look bad, given the fact that he, himself, might appear before the commission. He can only convince Zuma to go to the commission and answer the questions, and they will help him with whatever they can,” Mathekga said.

However, Professor Tinyiko Malukele said the meeting should have been convened by the ANC and its members to convince Zuma to appear before the Zondo Commission.

“One would have expected the ANC or maybe its members who are sympathetic to the former president, but not necessarily agree with his tactics, to have been the first to go and give him advice, and hear him out as to how he has come to this radical decision.

“What Malema and his company did was what should have been done by members of the ANC, if indeed that it is true that Malema went there to try to persuade him to attend the commission.

“The only thing that is strange from that meeting is that it came from the EFF leader and not from the ANC. This is because it could be that the ANC is divided around Zuma’s tactics and utterances,” said Maluleke.

Another political analyst, Metji Makgoba, said Zuma had been trying to force Zondo to recuse himself but failed.

“Malema wants to show us that he is a law-abiding citizen and having to go all the way from Limpopo to KZN just to convince Zuma to appear before the commission and raise his concerns before the structure of the commission portrayed Malema as someone who is very responsible, while it is actually a self-serving activity.”

The Sunday Independent