Break with multimillionaires
Peter Manson reports on the resignation of Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma has finally resigned as president of South Africa after having been recalled by the African National Congress. Previously it had been widely reported that Zuma would refuse to comply - he had been elected head of state by parliament, not the ANC, and so in legal terms it would have been up to the MPs of all parties to remove him. But ever since the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC leader it had been obvious that Zuma would go and go soon.
Zuma had been embroiled in numerous allegations of corruption (and ‘state capture’, where matters such as the appointment of ministers are heavily influenced by representatives of big business). But earlier this week director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams gave the prosecution team dealing with no less than 783 individual charges until February 23 to provide their recommendations. Things were not looking good for Zuma and he was said to be seeking a deal, whereby he would agree to step down if he could somehow escape prosecution. It is, of course, impossible to say what Ramaphosa promised him - and whether he would be able to carry through any such promise in any case.
Undoubtedly a key factor in Zuma’s decision to call it a day was the support that Ramaphosa was able to generate on the NEC. The December elective conference had been split between the two main ANC camps - basically pro- and anti-Zuma - and for the top job Ramaphosa narrowly defeated the candidate from the Zuma camp, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who happens to be a former wife of the outgoing president. The ‘top six’ officers divided evenly between the two camps, with new secretary general Ace Magashule said to be a firm Zuma ally. Even the ANC Women’s League - previously solidly behind Zuma - was now talking instead about vague “unity”.
And now Magashule, like most other former Zuma allies on the NEC, was joining in the call for the president to go now. The NEC meeting was interrupted at around 11pm when Ramaphosa and Magashule left to speak to Zuma in person. They advised him of the executive’s decision and he reportedly offered to resign - but only after three more months. It is claimed that he still wanted to be head of state when the ‘Brics summit’ - the meeting of representatives of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa itself - is held in Johannesburg later in the year. This would be followed by a meeting of the African Union and, on both occasions, he would be able to “introduce” Ramaphosa, who could then take over at the helm.
According to the ANC, following the personal meeting with Zuma, “The NEC received feedback from the delegation that the president of the republic did not accede to a shorter time frame.” The ANC statement then went on to report that the NEC had decided: (1) To recall its “deployee, comrade Jacob Zuma”; (2) There should be “continuing interaction between the officials of the ANC and the president of the republic”; (3) “All necessary parliamentary processes that arise from this decision will now ensue”.1
Point three was referring to the motion of no confidence that the ANC was proposing to put before parliament on February 15 - that would have pre-empted the move by the left-populist opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, whose own no-confidence motion was due to be debated on February 22.
By now there were urgent matters that needed attention. Last week’s ‘state of the nation’ address, originally due to be delivered by Zuma, had been postponed because of the crisis and then on February 21 the budget was due to be announced.
However, on February 14, Zuma appeared live on television to announce his resignation as president. He claimed he had done nothing wrong and innocently asked “the party to articulate my transgressions”. Nevertheless, he would behave like a disciplined ANC member and go as instructed.
Despite the fact that the entire NEC had eventually fallen into line with the Ramaphosa leadership (and no doubt with the sentiments of a large majority of ANC members across the country too), incredibly a section of the South African Communist Party was still opposing the SACP’s own call for Zuma to resign.
Foremost among them was Dominic Tweedie, who runs several SACP-influenced email lists. On February 13 he circulated the ANC statement quoted above to WhatsApp and various discussion and information lists, but just below that he included a touching photograph of Jacob Zuma, under the words, “Thank you, Nxamalala” - the great man’s affectionate nickname, derived from his Zulu clan and home village.
Last week I reported how Tweedie’s son, who happens to be the Morning Star’s foreign editor, had been claiming it was all a matter of the hostile media. Since then James Tweedie has continued in that same inane manner. At the end of last week he was stating that: “South Africa’s government insisted it was business as usual yesterday, as president Jacob Zuma and his deputy held talks on a ‘transition’” (February 8). He added: “Furious media speculation over the past year of Mr Zuma’s impending exit reached fever pitch this week.” On February 9 he focused not on the ANC itself, but on the likes of the EFF: “South African opposition parties vowed to ‘shut down’ the country if their demands for president Jacob Zuma to be replaced are not met.”
But all this was clearly becoming too much for former editor John Haylett (now political editor) and on February 8 he wrote a feature headed: “With Zuma still holding on, the ANC is in trouble”. The online version of his article was even more explicit: “As long as Zuma remains, the only way for the ANC is down,” read its headline.
He fully reported on the president’s shenanigans, including his attempts at “ethnic mobilisation” of fellow Zulus “to ensure that Zuma stays in office”. And he not only directly contradicted the Tweedies, when he wrote of Ramaphosa: “The ANC president knows that an 18-month election campaign, with Zuma still in office, will be an albatross around his and the party’s neck.” He also attempted a much more honest assessment of South Africa’s current position, more than two decades after the fall of apartheid, than we have been accustomed to reading in the pages of the Star:
Capitalist interests, both domestic and overseas, took the political demise of their former apartheid regime allies in their stride, reaching out to the new rulers even before the transition to democracy. Citing the Soviet Union’s self-induced disappearance to pronounce that socialism was off the agenda and a market economy was the only game in town, ANC leaders’ new-found friends offered assistance of all kinds to woo them into compliance and against radical change.
And it worked! - “The policy of black economic empowerment (BEE) transformed comrades of modest means almost overnight into multimillionaires,” writes Haylett. “Comrades previously committed to serving the people now saw their priority, acknowledged or not, as serving themselves.” And he added pointedly: “Both Zuma and Ramaphosa are implicated in this.”
But what comrade Haylett stops short of admitting is that the SACP alliance with the pro-capitalist ANC is totally and utterly unprincipled. What is needed is the independence of the working class.