Zuma’s Last Reshuffle Beckons

I doubt if Nxamalala does get any sleep these days. Maybe the benefits of medical science does come to his rescue. Taking sleeping pills must be a habit these days.

For quite some time now South Africa has been waiting for president Jacob Zuma to reshuffle his cabinet. He has been really shy these days. The nation is waiting with great anticipation for his move.

The hard reality is that Zuma has to and wants to reshuffle his cabinet. He,however, has nightmarish memories of the last reshuffle in December 2015 when he was totally humiliated when the markets rejected the replacement of highly respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene with a pedestrian Des “Weekend Special” Van Rooyen. Naively hoping to ignore the markets after this disastrous appointment, the top leadership of his party instructed him to fire the unknown concept that was Van Rooyen and find someone more decent to run the finances of Africa’s most sophisticated economy. With his tail between his legs, he had to make a call to a man he did not like and had moved from Finance to local government – Pravin Gordhan.

Zuma has never forgiven all those who humiliated him in 2015, including his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize. In November last year, at the party NEC, some members of the body moved a motion for him to step down as president of the republic of South Africa. Among them were those serving as ministers in his cabinet. He had appointed them. He was shocked and the motion was finally defeated after his lieutenants mobilized all absent members to rush to the NEC to save him against putchists who wanted him out. Even his ex- wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma rushed to St George’s Hotel to save the president and keep alive her prospects of landing the top job at both the ruling party and the country. Zuma was angry and wounded and his supporters asked him to immediately fire those who tried to oust him.

Once again president Zuma has to deal with the spectre of former “Vula” operative Gordhan, a stalwart of the liberation struggle and respected finance minister. The last time he tried to remove him via the National Prosecuting Authority it failed. The NPA case was weak and Shaun Abrahams, the NPA head appointed by Zuma, was humiliated and publicly lampooned for his ineptness. More serious than that, Zuma’s adversaries in the ANC stood by Gordhan and national mobilization began to defend the man they affectionately call PG. Civil society and business warned Zuma about dire consequences should he remove their darling.

Since then Gordhan has saved South Africa from certain downgrading to junk status thus making his position in treasury invincible. He is almost untouchable. This is a big headache as Gordhan’s position continues to undermine Zuma as head of state and the man with the constitutional prerogative to hire and fire ministers. Pravin Gordhan cannot be fired without risking his downfall himself. Not only does Gordhan command the support of business, the markets and civil society, a faction in the ANC and cabinet is likely to side with Gordhan agains the president. Firing Gordhan may lead to mass resignations in cabinet and virtually weakening or crippling government. This is a real possibility for a lame duck president who is left with only nine months as leader of the party.

It is a well known political phenomen that when a leader’s term of office comes to an end, self-serving politicians tend to desert him and switch allegiance to the heir apparent. Zuma’s fears are based on real experience and recent history. When he was deputy president, president Thabo Mbeki was recalled by the NEC for reasons that most South Africans still find difficult to understand. Zuma himself, embattled and accused of widespread corruption, is in a more vulnerable position than Mbeki in 2008.

The dilemma facing the president is that if he does not accede to the urges of his supporters to fire his enemies in the party, he gets weaker by the day. Those who tried to oust him become emboldened and realise that he is suffering from paralysis for fear of consequences. Also, who will he fire and who will he keep? Most of pro-Zuma ministers are either incompetent or accused of corruption. The best in that cabinet, Gordhan, Motsoaledi, Hanekom, Pandor and Ramaphosa are top performers. Should he fire them the backlash will reverberate beyond the party and government. There is a real possibility of a national civil uprising that may sweep the president off his pedestal. This is dangerous.

In fact, Zuma’s reckless and vindictive reshuffle may be his last. Those removed from cabinet will definitely win support in the party and in the country in general. Without the constraint of being government ministers, these NEC members will have so much time in their hands that an anti Zuma mobilization will become their full time jobs. They will criss-cross the country in favour of their leader Cyril Ramaphosa and the solidity of the so-called Premier League would crumble.

Should that happen, especially with Ramaphosa having resigned from the government, Zuma would not be able to influence who becomes ANC president. With the defeat of his allies in the Premier League, his situation will become untenable indeed. With Ramaphosa calling the shots in Luthuli House after the December conference, an incompetent president Zuma would not last at the Union Buildings. Very soon there would be discord between Luthuli House and Pretoria. A predominantly anti Zuma NEC would be compelled to recall the president while preparing for the Ramaphosa era in South African politics and history.

All these scenarios are playing themselves out in Jacob Zuma’s head. That is the cause of the delay and paralysis. Even the chess days on Robben Island won’t help. One wrong move would bring to an abrupt end one of the most controversial and scandal prone political careers of an ANC leader in its more than a century of its existence.

Source: Sello lediga

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