President Jacob Zuma’s already damaged reputation has hit an all-time low in the wake of Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas’ revelation, which has given opposition parties more ammunition in their fight to have Zuma recalled.
On Wednesday, Jonas confirmed reports that the influential Gupta family had offered him the position of Minister of Finance just before Nhlanhla Nene was removed from the post. He says he turned the offer down because he believed it made a mockery of the country’s constitution and democracy.
Jonas’ bombshell comes just days after former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor revealed that she had been offered the post of Minister of Public Enterprises by the Guptas when Barbara Hogan was removed from the position in 2010. She rejected the offer.
Jonas’ and Mentor’s revelations have pushed the ANC into a tight corner once again, and questions are being asked about why the party has not recalled Zuma.
A number of other senior ANC members, such as Jackson Mthembu and party veteran Andrew Mlangeni have also broken their silence on the Gupta’s powerful hold on the country. Despite this, South Africa is yet to discover if the ANC will ask Zuma to step down.
Political analyst Prince Mashele shares his insights into why the ANC’s National Executive Council (NEC) is not taking a decision on the Zuma matter.
“I think that the revelations confirm what many South Africans, including myself, have been saying: that the Guptas have captured the state. It has always been confirmed. They have captured [Zuma] with the members of his family,” he says.
Mashele says the ANC has not been decisive on the Zuma matter because the party has a lot to lose. “Most people in the NEC are beneficiaries of Zuma, and speaking out will compromise their jobs. And those who are reasonable in the NEC are not in the majority.”
Mashele adds that people are now weighing up which faction to support.
The decision to recall Zuma now rests with the NEC, which is expected to hold its next meeting soon, one that Mashele believes will be one of the most important ever held.
We ask Mashele whether the ANC might be afraid of the possible consequences of recalling Zuma. Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete said in an interview with The Star this week that there would be chaos in the country if the ANC were to recall him.
“I don’t know what chaos she is talking about, what she says makes no sense. The ANC would just have to follow the same script they used when they recalled Mbeki. The deputy president would just have to come in and be the acting president.”
He adds that Mbete’s response is to be expected because she is in Zuma’s camp.
The Economic Freedom Fighters, who have been very vocal about the relationship between Zuma and the Guptas, say they feel vindicated by Jonas’ revelation.
“The Guptas have effectively undermined and rendered the votes of the people of South Africa and the democratic system useless. It also demonstrates that the ANC and Jacob Zuma have voluntarily handed over the political decision-making of the country to a single family, the Guptas, which in itself is a direct threat to the sovereignty and national security of the country. There is no further evidence needed as to why Zuma must not step down as the President of the Republic, unless we are being forced to accept to be controlled and run by an unelected civilian family,” the party said in a statement.
The ANC has refuted the claims, saying that only the president was mandated to appoint cabinet ministers, and anyone else who offered jobs to government officials was doing so in their own capacity.
On Thursday, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe told eNCA that recalling Zuma will not be on the agenda at the NEC meeting. Responding to questions about the Guptas’ influence on the state, Mantashe also defended Zuma’s son Duduzane’s relationship with the Guptas, saying that he did not see a problem with his working relationship with the family.