Zuma Cabinet reshuffle fuels the South African succession war

South African President Jacob Zuma. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

South Africa’s beleaguered President Jacob Zuma has again reshuffled his Cabinet, deepening the divisions in his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party amid mounting calls for his resignation.

The South African Communist Party (SACP), a key member of the ruling alliance that the ANC enjoys with the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), has lashed out at the move, calling it a direct attack on their unity.

The move that saw Mr Blade Nzimande removed from the Higher Education ministry, is also being seen as an assault on the SACP Secretary-Genera, a vocal Zuma critic, over "state capture" allegations involving mass corruption and gross mismanagement of public finances.

"We emphatically reject these manoeuvres that place the alliance on the brink of disintegration. Our view is that this is not a reshuffle but the targeted removal of Comrade Blade [Nzimande] as a direct attack on the SACP," said the party.

SACP added that rather than strengthening governance, the reshuffle was about President Zuma surrounding himself with loyalists, as evidenced by "the retention of so many dead woods (sic) and compromised individuals in Cabinet".

The party called the move a "continued authoritarianism" that disregarded relations between the ANC and its alliance "partners" and which had "plunged the alliance into unchartered waters".

The reshuffle was the 12th undertaken in under eight years by President Zuma and the second in six months. The previous one on March 30, caused a downgrade of SA’s investment status to that of "junk".

Like the previous reshuffle, the latest ministerial rejig was done without consultation with the ANC’s alliance partners.

As much as the dropping of the widely respected Nzimande was upsetting to SACP, what is being seen as President Zuma’s repeated high-handed unilateralism has further alienated and antagonised his party’s alliance partners.

Political observers said that the chances of a split between the Mandela party, on the one hand, and SACP and Cosatu, on the other, had been much increased.

A split within the ANC itself was also considered increasingly likely.

South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

SACP has previously indicated it may "go it alone" in the 2019 national elections, due to President Zuma’s many scandals, with Cosatu making similar threats.

SACP concluded that President Zuma had crossed the line and that the reshuffle was "nothing but a response to the popular call, led by SACP and Cosatu, for the president to resign".

President Zuma had become "irrational" and "delusional", said senior SACP figures at a press conference where anger at the move was clearly signalled, with the SACP saying it would use "revolutionary tactics and strategies" from within the ANC national executive committee, where it has a number of members, to deal with the growing crisis around President Zuma’s continued leadership of both South Africa and ANC.

"Instead (of being silenced), the SACP is even more committed to continuing with its leading role in waging the struggle against state capture and corruption," said the party leadership.

SACP added that the dropping of Mr Nzimande was "part of Zuma's manoeuvres to secure successful election of his ordained successor", his ex-wife, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, at the ANC national elective conference in December.

"It is a well-known fact that the malady of corruption, governance decay and state capture has worsened exponentially under the incumbency of President Zuma and his friends, the Gupta family," added the angered SACP leadership.

The leader of the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), Mr Mmusi Maimane, addressed another aspect of the reshuffle in which a close Zuma ally was put in charge of the Energy ministry, saying the move was an attempt to revive a nuclear power deal with Russia, which was quashed by the courts earlier this year.

Mr Maimane said the appointment of former State Security minister, Mr David Mahlobo, to the Energy docket, was a clear attempt to seal a billion-dollar energy deal with Russia.

"This smacks of an attempt to reignite the ANC's efforts to chain our country to a nuclear deal with the Russians," said Mr Maimane, adding that President Zuma was relentless in his pursuit to "loot state funds".

DA was not surprised by the reshuffle which was "the latest move in Zuma's war against anyone who opposes his project of 'State Capture'," said Mr Maimane.

He added that it had nothing to do with good governance and that "Zuma appears to be firing his critics, and offering promotions in exchange for support ahead of the ANC's elective conference in December".

The reshuffle has also raised question about why President Zuma did not include Dr Dlamini-Zuma in his new Cabinet, despite backing her to succeed him against the desires of a growing number of his former supporters.

Analysts said the move was designed to give Dr Dlamini-Zuma a free hand in her campaign. A Cabinet post would impose many duties and leave her little time to advance her candidacy.

Just a day before the reshuffle, Dr Nkosazana-Dalmini’s leadership hopes received a severe blow when the ANC’s Eastern Cape provincial leadership announced that delegates from the region would back current Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma at both party level and as South Africa’s President.

African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The overt move by Eastern Cape coincides with indications that delegates in other regions formerly believed staunchly pro-Zuma were now ditching both him and his chosen candidate in favour of Mr Ramaphosa.

At least three other regions are believed to be leaning towards Mr Ramaphosa. Even in President Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, the indications were that between 30 and 40 per cent of delegates would support Mr Ramaphosa’s bid.

In another development, lobby group AfriForum announced that it was going ahead with the private prosecution of President Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma for the motor vehicle collision death of a woman in February 2014.

AfriForum recently made news by offering to fund the private prosecution of Zimbabwean Frist Lady Grace Mugabe for assaulting a young South African woman.

Prosecutors said they had decided in 2015 that a successful trial of Duduzane was not likely. But AfriForum, which has formed a private prosecution unit, said Gerrie Nel would take the matter on.

Mr Nel, who successfully prosecuted world famous paralympian Oscar Pistorius – nicknamed the "Blade Runner" – for the shooting to death of his girlfriend, Ms Reeva Steenkamp, joined that unit earlier this year.

Duduzane has been named repeatedly in connection with the system of corruption which has developed under President Zuma’s administration, along with immigrant family, the Guptas, who are alleged to have benefitted from the public purse to the tune of millions of dollars.

On another, parliament began what were expected to be lengthy and detailed committee hearings into "state capture", starting with what had transpired at Eskom, the state-owned power producer which has been closely associated with the Guptas.

And in yet another blow to President Zuma, a high court has ruled that the new Communications minister will not be able, unlike her predecessors, to interfere with the day-to-day operations of the national broadcaster, SABC, especially on political matters.

SABC is among several national institutions in which undue political interference has been exercised by President Zuma appointees and loyalists.

The ruling severely hampers efforts to force SABC’s radio and TV coverage to be pro-Zuma or to favour his faction within the ruling party.

It also levels the broadcasting playing field ahead of the 2019 elections.

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