Mahlatse Gallens and Tshidi Madia, News24
President Jacob Zuma. (Khothatso Mokone, AP)
They have labelled renewed calls for the NEC to oust him a “fallacy”.
ANC Youth League secretary general Njabulo Nzuza, who is also a supporting NEC member, told News24 an NEC recall of Zuma would be unconstitutional.
“Those people really can’t raise a motion of no confidence in an NEC. Only congress, which elected him [Zuma], can deal with such a thing. Even our constitution makes no provision for such.”
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“People are being sold a fallacy of something here,” Nzuza said.
He was supported by another senior member who said that, during an NEC meeting in November 2016, former tourism minister Derek Hanekom’s motion for Zuma to be recalled was defeated, and had “ended the debate”.
“There was an agreement at that meeting that it will never be discussed again, because the branches said we don’t have the powers. We will call to order anyone that calls for him to go,” the NEC member said.
He argued that the ANC’s constitution stated that only the party’s president could be the president of the country.
“Zuma’s recall is different from Mbeki, as he was no longer ANC president when he was recalled,” the member explained.
Mbeki was recalled in 2008 after losing the party’s presidency to Zuma. The party’s NEC is holding a scheduled meeting, starting on Friday.
“Organisational weaknesses can’t be solved by removing a president. If there are issues, we must resolve them structurally.
“We also can’t play to the gallery. The NEC cannot change congress resolutions, let alone the office of the president,” Nzuza said.
Zuma is already facing a motion of no confidence in Parliament, with claims that some ANC members want to vote in support of the motion tabled by opposition parties.
The national executive is divided over Zuma’s hold on the presidency.
Among them is one member who said it would be “irresponsible” for the party’s top structure not to discuss it.
“If we don’t, we would be writing the ANC off, as we are losing credibility in the eyes of the public,” he said.
He questioned Zuma’s support base, following calls the ANC’s tripartite alliance partners – SACP, Cosatu and Sanco – for him to step down. These calls have been repeated in countrywide protests, demanding Zuma’s removal.
“And now there is that report of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), which stopped short of saying this government has lost moral authority to govern.
“That is [a] very serious charge and you can’t turn a blind eye to it, and that is another reason why the NEC should be sitting up and put on the agenda the demand for this person to quit,” he said.
The SACC released a damning report on state capture and said the country risks collapsing if the ANC does not act on the “systematic siphoning on state assets pivoted around the president”.
Both sides are expecting this weekend’s meeting to be “difficult and tense”, following numerous controversial moves linked to Zuma.
It is the first NEC meeting since the controversial reshuffle which replaced Pravin Gordhan as finance minister. The country was downgraded to junk status and the unfolding Brian Molefe saga was labelled as “embarrassing”.
Another NEC member said the party must deal with the Public Protector’s recommendation that a judicial commission of inquiry be established into the alleged undue influence of the Gupta family on the executive and state-owned enterprises.
Zuma has approached the courts for the decision to be reviewed, while Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa wants an inquiry to go ahead.
At least three members of the NEC said they would call for the succession debate to be opened, as leaders had already launched their campaigns to replace Zuma at the December elective conference.
They said opening it up would limit “leaders publicly attacking each other”.
“What we must do now is talk the rules of the game,” said of the NEC members.
The ANC has canned the debate until after the June policy conference and said members must instead discuss the qualities of the future leader.
“I really think we are going to push for it to be opened up now, instead of waiting for [the] policy conference,” an NEC member said.
While Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are seen as front runners for the ANC’s top post, there are presidential campaigns for other senior party members, including Lindiwe Sisulu, Jeff Radebe, Mathews Phosa and Baleka Mbete.