The Big Read: Ousting Zuma is just the start

29 May 2017 - 09:50 By Justice Malala

While many of his fellow political prisoners turned to the rigours and pleasures of study on Robben Island, the young Jacob Zuma, serving 10 years, opted to learn chess.

Many of his comrades and fellow prisoners left the cold, harsh island armed with degrees (Dikgang Moseneke, jailed for 10 years when he was a mere 15 years old, studied for his matric and two degrees while in prison at the same time as Zuma); our current president left with an ability to outfox, outmanoeuvre and outplay many of his contemporaries.

He learnt to be sly and cunning and to think seven or eight moves ahead of the game.

As I write, the national executive committee of the ANC is debating a motion of no confidence in Zuma brought by senior strategist Joel Netshitenzhe.

  • READ MORE |Defiant Zuma survives bid to oust him as presidentA defiant President Jacob Zuma survived a bid by some members of the African National Congress’s top leadership to order his removal from office, according to three members of the ruling party’s national executive committee.

Netshitenzhe is not a man to be trifled with. He is one of the ANC's most strategic thinkers, a cornerstone of the Mandela and Mbeki administrations.

In the past few years, Netshitenzhe will have thought deeply about the Zuma effect on South Africa and the ANC. His motion is therefore not frivolous - we are on the precipice if Zuma stays.

But have Netshitenzhe and others considered what Zuma is thinking and planning as a fightback? Have they thought about what happens when he does step down, whether it is today, this week or in two or three months?

The crucial collaborative academics' report on state capture released last week, Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is Being Stolen, says: "Commentators, opposition groups and ordinary South Africans underestimate Jacob Zuma, not simply because he is more brazen, wily and brutal than they expect but because they reduce him to caricature. They conceive of Zuma and his allies as a criminal network that has captured the state."

  •  READ MORE |Here's everything we know about the #GuptaEmails so farFinding it hard to keep up with the news surrounding the explosive revelations in e-mail correspondence documenting the extent of the Gupta family's influence in South Africa? Then read this. 

It is telling that Zuma sat in the room all day on Saturday as his own departure was being discussed. Anyone else would have realised the massive conflict of interest he has, and would have recused themselves.

Zuma stayed because he did not care for conflicts or think they are important. He was there not just to fight, but to win.

This past weekend was a battle, not the war. Zuma no longer wants to be president. You can see the job tires and frustrates the man.

He wants to be Atul Gupta now - the power behind the throne, the puppet master. Zuma wants untold wealth and to stay out of jail at all costs.

The only way he can do that is to ensure that he controls and manipulates the next ANC president and other key cogs around that new leader.

  •  READ MORE |Here they are: The emails that prove the Guptas run South AfricaA series of explosive e-mails show the extent of the Gupta family’s control over cabinet ministers, and state-owned companies and  their CEOs and boards. 

So on Saturday he was furiously calculating several options.

The NEC cannot remove Zuma from the ANC presidency. It does not have the powers to do so. Only a national elective conference of the party has the power to elect and remove leadership.

If the party this weekend or in the next few weeks manages to unseat Zuma from the state presidency, a conundrum awaits. The president of the ANC will now be a freewheeling bird, with an office at Luthuli House or Sahara Computers, and will be calling provincial leaders and consolidating support for his preferred successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Captured institutions that have done his bidding in the past will be given orders on how to survive until she becomes president.

Expect the likes of National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams, Public Protector Busi Mkhwebane and a coterie at the Hawks to do everything in their power to continue to stifle key investigations into Zuma.

Don't be fooled - he has sway over all these institutions.

Essentially, the Zuma gang will continue to protect him, feed him, clothe him even as he leaves the Union Buildings.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, deeply implicated in the kleptocracy established by Zuma and the Gupta family, will continue to deploy and secure the gang's men and women such as Dudu Myeni at SAA, at key state-owned enterprises. If he is questioned he will say orders came from "the strategic centre of power - the ANC". That means Zuma.

From his perch at Luthuli House Zuma will ensure that he knows every single delegate to the ANC conference in December 2017. Dissenters will be culled. Anti-Nkosazana branches will be delegitimised and barred from attendance.

In December the party will vote Dlamini-Zuma in by a large margin. Zuma has done it before. Look at the ANC's Mangaung 2012 conference - 75% of ANC delegates voted for him to continue in power. That's because he hand- picked them to be in the room.

Zuma is a ruthless, bold, scheming, wily and desperate criminal mind.

Many of us thought he would have enough sense not to institute a deeply damaging and crooked cabinet reshuffle this year. He went ahead and did it. So far he has got away with it.

If the Zuma kleptocracy is to end, the "enlightened" ANC leadership and South Africa will need to institute a deep, fast and comprehensive breaking up of the Zuma criminal network.

Removing Zuma from the Union Buildings will not be it - the man's tentacles run deep into the body of the country's governance structures and into the ANC.

Sadly for all of us, because every day of Zuma in power is a loss for all South Africans, this is not the end of the road.

A long fight lies ahead. Zuma will continue to rage against the dying of his light and he will fight to cling on to power.

He will not stop, which means that fallout will continue to affect the ANC organisationally and all of us politically and economically.