News Analysis

One admission stood out in the ANC’s spin this week – it said President Jacob
Zuma’s resignation would tear the party apart.

was also the perceptible shift from the days when secretary-general Gwede
Mantashe ripped into the judiciary as “counter-revolutionary”. This time
around, he praised the courts, despite a rather damning ruling by the highest
court in the land against the governing party.

a truly united party, when the leader steps down, the deputy (in this case a
capable Cyril Ramaphosa) would simply step up to fill his shoes.

should be especially true for the ANC if its claims of the party being bigger
than individuals were more than mere ideals.

a party split down the middle in more or less equal factions, however, things
are more likely to fall apart.

ANC still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, from the time when the
bruising battle between Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki saw the latter’s
recall in 2008 – and the formation of a new opposition party, the Congress of
the People.

and Mantashe were both there at the National Executive Committee meeting in
Kempton Park to witness this.

at the Luthuli House press conference on Friday night whether there was
unanimity amongst the ANC’s top six earlier in the day about Zuma not resigning
(a tweet from Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema said Ramaphosa led
a charge for Zuma to go), Mantashe responded so swiftly that he interjected.

was unanimity,” he said.
“Malema’s tweets were ‘manufactured stories’.”

unanimity doesn’t mean all six officials are on the same page in their liking
for Zuma, but they’re pretty much all aware of the damage a recall can do to
the party.

said the immediate reaction by many after the Constitutional Court judgment on
Thursday was that Zuma should resign.

court ruled that he violated the Constitution and should pay back the money for
non-security upgrades to his Nkandla home.

for a recall was the same as “calling for the ANC to tear itself apart”, he

to journalists who have been in the field a while, he said: “I would have
imagined that you have witnessed our previous experience. So my view is that
opposition forces are making that call knowing that it is a call for the ANC to
tear itself apart,” he said.

this means is that, despite the party’s best efforts at reconciliation and its
grand claims of unity at last year’s National General Council, serious rifts
still exist in the party, some of these over a decade old. The supposed unifier
called Zuma has been anything but.

remark on opposition parties was also telling. Back in 2008 Malema was amongst
those who led a charge that created the momentum for Mbeki’s recall. It made
him so powerful that he became a fearless critic within the party – until he
was subsequently kicked out.

a press conference after the Constitutional Court judgment on Thursday,
Malema’s narrative was one of “I told you so”. It was the EFF that brought the
case to the Constitutional Court and Malema wanted to make it clear that the
charge against Zuma was in capable and still-powerful hands.

ANC, for its part, however, would never want to be seen to be giving in to his
or any other opposition party’s demands.

said: “Let me explain it further by saying it would be a sick organisation that
would take action just because the main opposition party is calling for it, or
the EFF is calling for it. There is no party that works that way, because if it
works that way there would be no party left,” he said.

ANC was still open to more discreet engagements. Mantashe
called on “all sectors of society that are unhappy” to talk to the ANC around a
table, rather than in the media.

this his way of calling on more quiet dissent, away from the cameras, that
would enable a Zuma recall without it seeming like an opposition victory?

could it be the ANC’s way of mobilising adversity into an elections campaign

likely, it is a way for the ANC to humble itself, in the same way Zuma humbled
himself when he appeared in a televised address to the nation an hour earlier.

is a far cry from the time when Mantashe – in Zuma’s defence – attacked the integrity of the judges themselves.

time he praised the damning Concourt finding as a “well-written and extremely
balanced judgment, which is testament to the fact that the Constitution of our
country, adopted in 1996, truly remains an anchor, shield and lodestar of our

could also have been Ramaphosa’s hand, as he was one of the lead architects of
the Constitution back in the early 90s.

omitted to answer journalists’ questions on whether he still had faith in Zuma,
but he did say: “The ANC is convinced that there was no intention on the part
of the President and ANC Members of Parliament to deliberately act
inconsistently with the Constitution. We have thus noted, welcome and
appreciate the apology by the president to the nation this evening.”

Perhaps there’s been some kind of a shift after

has famously said that in cases of discipline the ANC was like an elephant:
slow to start moving, but once it starts going it is decisive and fierce.

it be that the elephant has stirred? And how long before it gains enough
impetus to do what many reckon would have been the right thing for Zuma to
have done on Friday night?