While members of the ANC top six have stated their opinion on President Jacob Zuma’s midnight reshuffle, ANC chairperson and Speaker of the National Assembly is withholding her opinion until she learns more about what happened.
At press briefing on Sunday, Mbete also told journalists that she cut a working trip to Bangladesh short after receiving requests for Parliament to hold a vote of no confidence from both the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters.
Mbete made her statement shortly after arriving back in Johannesburg from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The opposition parties’ request for a vote of no confidence against President Zuma came after a cabinet reshuffle was announced after midnight on Thursday. There 10 ministers and 10 deputy ministers who were affected in the reshuffle, including former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.
On Monday night, senior officials of the ANC met with its alliance partner, the South African Communist Party (SACP).
In that meeting, Mbete says that Zuma briefed attendees with historical context on his working relationship with Gordhan.
The “intelligence report” which Zuma is said to have used as a reason to fire Gordhan, was also brought up in that meeting.
Mbete said that all 12 people in the meeting “appreciated” that the “President took us into his confidence”. A range of matters were discussed, but the so-called intelligence report was not seen in that meeting. Zuma only spoke of it, Mbete said.
“We did not discuss an intelligence report. The president mentioned it. We did not see it,” Mbete said.
On Thursday, Mbete said she received a call from Zuma where he informed her that there would be an announcement made by the Presidency. At the time, she said that she did not know details of the announcement or the names of the other ministers and deputies, besides Gordhan and Jonas, who might be affected by a Cabinet reshuffle.
ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe has said the reshuffle made him ‘uncomfortable’ and ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize said that there had been no collective leadership on the decision. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has called it “unacceptable”, but despite the criticisms from within the ANC top six, Mbete chose to remain silent on her opinion.
She said that she was in Dhaka, Bangladesh at the time the reshuffle was announced and does not have all the information about what transpired to make an informed opinion.
Mbete, however, also suggested that while ANC members have spoken out against Zuma’s reshuffle, the party prefers it when discussions happen within party structures as opposed to on public forums.
The vote of no confidence
Mbete outlined that in order for a vote of no confidence to be scheduled in Parliament she would first have to assess the merit of the requests and consult with ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Once the consultations had concluded, it could then be decided if the vote should take place. Mbete said that the consultations should take a “few days” but will begin once she returns to her office on Tuesday if Mthembu and Ramaphosa are available.
Mbete said that consultation could not begin sooner because she will be at a national working committee in Luthuli House on Monday and will only return to Cape Town in the evening.
The EFF, the DA, and the SACP have released strong condemnations of Zuma’s reshuffle and have since asked the president to resign.