Greg Nicolson
April 7, 2016
The Daily Maverick
South African President Jacob Zuma’s apology April 4th has done little to resolve the political crisis wracking South Africa. The March 31st Constitutional Court ruling he used his position for personal gain and “failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution,” came on the heels of allegations by respected members of the African National Congress that an influential business family allied with Zuma had offered them cabinet posts in return for political favors.

Corruption and concerns about the “corporate capture” of the South African state have led to widespread criticism of South African President Jacob Zuma., Blackboard by Parée /Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 License

It has been almost two weeks since the Constitutional Court slammed President Jacob Zuma and the National Assembly for ignoring the Public Protector’s Nkandla report. It’s almost a month since Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said the Gupta family offered him a promotion. Now, more people are calling for Zuma’s departure than ever before. GREG NICOLSON looks at those who are standing up against the president.

The Luminaries

While the groundswell against the president continues to build, perhaps the most notable person to speak out is Zuma’s former minister in the presidency and Thabo Mbeki’s finance minister, Trevor Manuel. Last week he told Soweto TV “it would be in all our interests that the president actually steps aside”.

The list of luminaries who have questioned Zuma’s leadership hardly stops there. In an emotional letter, Rivonia triallist Ahmed Kathrada has asked the president to resign. He asked, “Is it asking too much to express the hope that you will choose the correct way that is gaining momentum, to consider stepping down?” His fellow Rivonia triallist Denis Goldberg has also spoken out against the president, like Kathrada hoping to save the integrity of the ANC and the country’s leadership.

On behalf of the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Frene Ginwala, SA’s first female Speaker in Parliament, Njabulo Ndebele, and Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, have expressed deep concern with the country’s direction. Former ANC deputy secretary-general Cheryl Carolus has also called for Zuma to step aside.

Former director-general of home affairs and recently appointed Corruption Watch chairman Mavuso Msimang has also spoken out against the president, appearing on the steps of the Constitutional Court last week with other former ANC leaders and civil society members calling for Zuma to step down. “My hope is that it’s not too late for the leadership,” he said, “to ask [the] president to do right thing and step down.”

Another ANC luminary who has been outspoken against Zuma in recent years is former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils. Explaining why Zuma must step down last week, he listed the president’s current and past scandals.

While many of the luminaries have questioned the president before, Barbara Hogan, Moe Shaik, Sydney Mufamadi, George Bizos, and Mbhazima Shilowa have also spoken out against Zuma. Even former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe has made veiled comments about failed leaders needing to step aside.

The Comrades

While the above list is mostly made up of former ANC leaders, structures still active within the party are also questioning the president’s leadership. The Sefako Makgatho branch in Johannesburg has called for the president to resign and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to take over until the party’s elective congress next year. Johannesburg’s Rivonia Heroes branch is set to file a complaint against the president, according to reports. Limpopo’s largest branch, Cuito Cuanavale, is also questioning Zuma’s leadership. There are reports of branches in Rustenburg and Cape Town who want Zuma removed.

While the SA Communist Party has been extremely critical on issues of “state capture” and the Gupta family, it has stopped short of condemning the president. Last week, however, Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor said before the anniversary of Chris Hani’s murder that Hani would “be horrified to learn his organisation has corruption as part of the exercise of political office, by some within it”, which some interpreted as a veiled stance against Zuma, but could be taken in a number of ways.

Of the young comrades, many have jumped ship to the Economic Freedom Fighters, but Julius Malema’s former deputy in the Youth League, Ronald Lamola, has become one of Zuma’s harshest critics. Former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa has also spoken out against the president.

Last week, a group of about 40 “Masupatsela” or “young pioneers” who grew up with the ANC in exile called for a special elective conference of the party.

“We are extremely unsettled by his disingenuous and contradictory assertion that he had always been willing to pay for the nonsecurity features at Nkandla‚” said the letter signed by descendants of struggle leaders.

The Outside Objectors

One of the most powerful voices calling on Zuma to resign comes from former Constitutional Court Justice Zak Jacoob. When it comes to constitutional matters, his opinion is important. “Our president had acted dishonestly, miserably and corruptedly,” he said last week. He was also on the Constitutional Court steps with the likes of Msimang, Kasrils, former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and activist Mark Heywood.

Just as important is the voice of the churches.

“We call on you to discuss what is wrong with the country and more importantly what is needed to do right. We call on people to hold organised discussions in churches, villages, mosques, informal settlements, sports clubs about how to secure the resignation of Zuma. We call on you to drop any other plan you have and join that dialogue,” Reverend Moss Ntla of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa was quoted as saying last week. The Anglican Church of SA, Evangelical Alliance, and SA Christian Leadership Initiative have all called for Zuma to step down.

The list of those opposing Zuma is perhaps not yet enough to lead his party to recall him. Many, it can be said, were either already against the president or have opposed him in the past. But the sentiment is growing and compared to the disparate ANC factions that stood against the president at the ANC’s Mangaung conference or the selective interests who have challenged him on specific issues in the past, it’s now a significant bloc. 

[Greg Nicolson reports on power and politics for the South African Daily Maverick.]

[The South African Communist Party (SACP) is a partner in the Tripartite Alliance with the African National Congress and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. In a statement issued by its Political Bureau April 3, 2016, the SACP welcomed President Zuma’s apology and his agreement to implement the recommendations of the Public Protector, but added, “self-correction must clearly go way beyond this.” The SACP said, “Thursday's Concourt judgment and the evident popular acclamation it received from the widest array of South Africans should be a clear warning signal to the ANC, to our ANC-led alliance, and to the ANC-led government. Decisive action is now imperative, otherwise the continuing loss of moral authority, political paralysis and fragmentation of our movement will continue.” See more at:]

[See the complete letter from Masupatsela a Walter Sisulu, the ANC’s young pioneer movement, to the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress at:]




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