How Zuma avoided being expelled

07 October 2012 - 02:06

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe saved President Jacob Zuma from being expelled from the ANC.

This is revealed in journalist Ebrahim Harvey's book on the deputy president - Kgalema Motlanthe, A Political Biography - which hit the shelves this weekend.

In the book, both men tell the author that they believe Zuma would have been expelled from the ANC in 2005 by then president Thabo Mbeki were it not for Motlanthe's intervention.

"Kgalema played a role many people won't know about - because at that time Mbeki was ready to expel me from the organisation, especially in meetings I was not present at," Zuma told the author.

He was referring to events following his sacking by Mbeki as deputy president after the conviction of Zuma's then financial adviser and friend Schabir Shaik on charges of corruption.

Motlanthe agrees with Zuma in the book that there were plans by Mbeki's supporters to push Zuma out of politics: "Let me tell you that if I did not take that stand - and he knows it - those targeting him would perhaps have finished him off politically," he said.

Motlanthe was ANC secretary-general at the time and apparently blocked Zuma's axing by insisting on the party abiding by its constitution and presuming the then deputy president to be innocent until proven guilty despite adverse findings by Judge Hilary Squires in the Shaik trial.

Motlanthe's stance helped Zuma mobilise support against Mbeki within the party and eventually replace him as ANC leader at the organisation's 2007 Polokwane conference.

Ironically, Zuma and Motlanthe now look headed for their own showdown - with both expected to stand as presidential candidates at the party conference in Mangaung, Free State.

Nominations for leadership positions at the conference, which will be held in December, opened to ANC branches on Monday.

Zuma's ambition to serve a second term is an open secret but Motlanthe is playing his cards close to the chest - leading to some of Zuma's backers to allege that the deputy president would not stand if the president wa s still available for the job.

In the book, Motlanthe denies this: "No, it is not true at all, but nobody has approached me. My position is that nobody must try and canvass for themselves in the run-up to elections. It is up to the will of the branches.

"But if I am nominated for such a position when the electoral commission approaches me . I will then either accept or decline. However, I will not be party to any manoeuvring outside the prescribed constitutional structures and processes."

The book reveals sharp differences between Motlanthe and Luthuli House on issues ranging from Mbeki's controversial axing as president in 2008 to the independence of the judiciary and the expulsion of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema from the ruling party.

On Mbeki's axing, Motlanthe - who took over as head of state when Mbeki was fired - said: "I felt that whatever the leadership thought about Mbeki at that point in time, it could not outweigh the need for a smooth transition from the old to the new leadership in both the party and state.

"In my view we could have kept him and brought the election closer, perhaps in April or even March. I think he would have agreed to that proposal and completed his term."

He said he was also unhappy that, unlike former president Nelson Mandela, Mbeki was "not kept in the loop and serviced" by the ANC once he was out of office.

In the book, Motlanthe also reveals his discomfort with references made by his long-time trade unionist comrade and his successor as ANC secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, to the judiciary as "counter-revolutionary".

"When Mantashe and others say that judges are counter-revolutionary and that the judiciary is oppositionist, it reflects a completely wrong understanding of their constitutional role and their relationship with the other two arms of the state," he said.

He, however, has his own concerns about the courts: "The Constitutional Court sometimes makes judgments which essentially amend the constitution by stealth, with the result that the court has tended to infuse into lower courts political considerations in their judgments in anticipation that a certain matter may end up in the Constitutional Court.

"I think that is a serious problem because the courts are not meant to make political judgments but on the basis of the actual evidence and arguments presented in court."

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