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Wed Jun 01 07:32:43 SAST 2016

ANALYSIS: What the Jonas admission could mean for President Zuma

S'Thembiso Msomi | 16 March, 2016 18:43
The first indication of whether he remains strong or not will emerge on Thursday when Zuma appears before Parliament to answer questions. File photo
Image by: Esa Alexander

The one question on everybody's mind now is if President Jacob Zuma will survive the increasingly credible assertions that the Gupta family are tendering Cabinet minister appointments.

There have been many scandals before that led the South African public to believe his luck has run out and that it was just a matter of time before he was recalled by the African National Congress.

In each of those - from Nkandla to impregnating the daughter of a friend - he survived‚ mostly because of the power he continued to wield as both the head of state and president of the ruling party.

But with his second and last term in office fast approaching its end‚ there is clear evidence that he is losing his grip with many of his former allies already looking forward to the next leader.

The confirmation‚ therefore‚ by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas that he was offered the job of finance minister by Zuma's friends‚ the Guptas‚ can only further widen the gap between the president‚ his party and the voters.

What Jonas did was to confirm what many in the ANC have been saying in private for years: that the country's sovereignty is under threat from the Gupta family as it has positioned itself as a parallel executive - deciding on who should take what public sector job behind closed doors.

Does this weaken Zuma? Definitely.

Does that mean it is the end of his presidency? It depends on whether‚ despite Jonas‚ Vytjie Mentor and Fikile Mbalula's statements that the Guptas offered them Cabinet positions‚ the ANC still stands by him.

The first indication of whether he remains strong will emerge on Thursday when Zuma appears before Parliament to answer questions. ANC MPs will be watched carefully to see if they warmly welcome him or defend him when under attack from the opposition.

Then there is the weekend ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting. It was the NEC that recalled former president Thabo Mbeki from office in 2008. However‚ at that time Mbeki was no longer the party's leader, having lost to Zuma a few months earlier.

The party's leaders in the NEC now have to weigh two questions. Can they afford to remove their president from office with just only a few months to go before the municipal elections? The last time they recalled a head of state‚ the party suffered a split and lost more than a million voters at the polls. But is that risk greater than going to the elections with a compromised head of state who has abdicated his responsibilities and outsourced his constitutional power to appoint members of the Cabinet to his friends and business partners?

TMG Digital/The Times

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