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What is Zuma’s end game, Lessons from Mbeki's recall

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TitleWhat is Zuma’s end game, Lessons from Mbeki's recall
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What is Zuma’s end game? Lessons from Mbeki's recall.
As calls grow for Jacob Zuma’s removal as South African president, the ANC national executive committee has mandated the top six national leaders to facilitate it before the 2019 general elections.

Those who make the call without considering certain dynamics at play should read Frank Chikane’s books: Eight Days in September and Things that Could Not Be Said.

Chikane says Thabo Mbeki’s recall “brought us close to the definition of a coup d’état.” In fact, it was a bloodless coup d’état on two grounds.

First, the recall was unconstitutional. Only Parliament could remove him through a motion of non-confidence in or an impeachment against him.

Second, the ANC prevented Mbeki from discharging his constitutional responsibilities, thus creating an interregnum. He was set to address a United Nations meeting on millennium development goals and the African diaspora conference.

Moeletsi Mbeki revealed that a delegation – led by then ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe – went to his brother’s presidential house and forced him to sign a resignation letter.

“The army chiefs called for them to be arrested but my brother said no,” he added.

Mbeki resigned because he did not want to “destabilise” the country, according to Chikane. The arrests of the delegation and those whom Chikane says had “engaged in activities that could have easily sent them to jail” would have indeed “destabilised” the country. More so, considering that the ANC had forced Mbeki to appoint Motlanthe as a minister without a portfolio to manage a transition and Mantashe ran the organisation as a secretary-general. The arrests would have forced the ANC to convene a special national general council or conference to elect, among others, a new deputy president and secretary-general.

Although the delegation could not answer the questions about a constitutionality of his recall and the interregnum it would create thereof, Mbeki resigned. Besides not wanting to destabilise the country, he resigned to preserve his positive legacy on the African Peer-Review Mechanism, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and other achievements.

Unlike Zuma and many other African leaders, Mbeki had no pending case of corruption to hold on to power. Incidentally, he had told Zuma before a national executive committee meeting that he would abide by a party decision to recall him. The question, therefore, begs itself as to whether Zuma would also abide by an ANC decision to recall him.

While his multipronged plan – which has some elements of the 5th Brigade, otherwise known as Gukurahundi, a crack squad that dealt “with dissidents and any other trouble in” Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe – to install Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as a president to avoid prosecution has backfired, Zuma would not let go of power without a fight, unless the ANC promises him immunity. He may challenge his recall in a court of law, or, at worst, have the top officials – with exception of secretary-general Ace Magashule and his deputy, Jessie Duarte, both of whom would not support the recall – arrested for a coup d’état.

Mandating the top officials to facilitate Zuma’s removal may be a strategy from his faction. If the national executive committee could remove Mbeki, why not do the same with Zuma? If the top officials are arrested and charged with coup d’état, the ANC would have to convene a special national general council or conference to elect new leaders. As such, parts of the multipronged plan would be back on track with an imperialist ultimatum – that is, as Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o puts it, “accept theft or death”.

If Zuma refuses to resign, the ANC would have to wait for the Parliament to conclude rules for his impeachment. With a divided ANC, the impeachment is very unlikely to reach a two-thirds majority, at least if it were a motion of non-confidence, which requires no less than 51%.

To stand a chance of retaining state power in 2019, ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa should stop Zuma’s endless game of hide-and-seek on a commission of inquiry into state capture and his appeal of a court order that he cannot appoint a particular National Prosecuting Authority head. Deliberately, Zuma would broaden the -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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