JOHANNESBURG — President Jacob Zuma reportedly confronted members of the governing party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) at the weekend, asking them to indicate whether or not they wanted him recalled.
These claims were published in the Mail & Guardian as well as the Sowetan newspapers on Tuesday.
According to both publications, sources — who are senior members of the NEC — allege the President told the meeting that if they (NEC members) had the intention to recall him, he would prefer they tell him upfront, rather than “stab him in the back”. Zuma reportedly added that he was aware of a faction within the ANC’s highest structures that wanted him out and that “he was ready to step down if they wanted him to do so”.
The “anti-Zuma” faction in the room, however, made the decision not to recall him, reasoning such a move would be “irresponsible” and could spell disaster for the party, ahead of the upcoming local government elections.
Prior to the meeting, speculation ran high that recalling the President would be part of the agenda, but in a subsequent media briefing, the ANC’s General Secretary, Gwede Mantashe only reaffirmed the NEC’s support for Zuma.
The President has been central to recent controversy around allegations of ‘State capture’ by the influential Gupta family, with whom he and his son, Duduzane, have close ties.
This follows admissions by the country’s Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC MP Vytie Mentor that they had been offered ministerial positions by the Guptas, a responsibility solely entrusted to the President. Government’s former Communications CEO, Themba Maseko, then came forward with allegations that he had been asked directly by the President to “help” the Guptas, by allocating government advertising to the their New Age newspaper in 2010.
The ANC NEC responded to these developments with outrage, calling the Guptas arrogant and mandating an integrity committee that would allow members who may have been approached with said job offers, to blow the whistle. That decision, however, was met with some scepticism.
The Guptas say they will “fully cooperate” with the processes of the committee.
“We welcome this process which should ultimately allow the truth to be recognised and end this current trial by innuendo and slander,” said a statement issued by the Gupta family.