South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. REUTERS/Rogan Ward.

CHARLES MOLELE

ANC insiders believe that former ANC President Jacob Zuma’s scathing letter on the eve of an all-important special national executive committee (NEC) meeting is the clearest signal that his ‘State Capture’ allies will seek to prematurely remove President Cyril Ramaphosa from leadership because he has allegedly not executed Nasrec resolutions they are aligned with.

In a hard-hitting letter, which comes as the ruling party gets into day one of its National Executive Committee meeting, Zuma says Ramaphosa is the first ANC president since 1912 to stand in public and accuse the party of criminality.

“Mr President,” Zuma writes, “you are indeed the first President of the ANC to stand in public and accuse the ANC of criminality and that the ANC must be the accused Number 1 as accusations of corruption mount.”

He also writes: “I view your letter as a diversion, a public relations exercise by which you accuse the entire ANC in order to save your own skin.”

Zuma, in a letter alleged to have been written by his staunch supporters such as Carl Niehaus, claims Ramaphosa has avoided implementing the Nasrec resolutions on land expropriation, nationalization of the SA Reserve Bank, radical economic transformation (RET), free higher education, job creation and poverty eradication.

“Mr President, it would be a colossal reversal of our democratic gains if you are placing the ANC as Accused number 1.This sounds like a public relations exercise and a grand scheme that does not help to build and promote the ANC,” writes Zuma.

“It would be such a pity, Mr President, if under your watch, the ANC can be accused by its own leaders, instead of nurturing Mr President, under your watch, the tendency, not to implement certain recommendations and decisions has been a worrying factor.”

Zuma’s letter also surfaced on the same day ANC NEC member and convicted fraudster Tony Yengeni called on Ramaphosa to follow his own advice and step down.

According to sources, Yengeni said Ramaphosa should be removed as party leader because he is accused of vote buying at the Nasrec conference.

Andile Lungisa, a staunch supporter of Zuma, also wrote to the ANC’s Top Six this week asking for Ramaphosa’s campaign finances to be investigated by the governing party’s Integrity Commission while the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, also threw their weight behind an investigation into Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign.

A Ramaphosa sympathiser told Inside Politics on Friday that there are two possible motivations behind Zuma’s letter to the incumbent. 

He said Zuma’s letter was, firstly, a calculated move to turn his pending court case next month into political theatre in a desperate attempt to give credence to the theory presented by his faction that his corruption charges are politically motivated.

Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering that is linked to South Africa’s 1999 multi-billion rand Arms Deal. formally known as the South African Strategic Defence Procurement Package.

“I would have expected Zuma to give his successor a chance to govern quietly but his pending corruption cases makes that difficult. The letter could be an attempt to turn the pending court cases into a political theatre, that is, to give credence to the [conspiracy] theory presented by his faction that these cases are politically motivated,” said a Ramaphosa sympathizer on Friday night.

“Secondly, it could be motivated by purely selfish interest. President Zuma cannot get used to the loss of power. He has not accepted the loss of power in Nasrec. This second theory could be driven by two things – his faction has been appealing for support from him as its face or he does not want to relinquish power within his faction. The letter therefore is an attempt on his part to remain relevant.”

Another party insider said Ramaphosa faces an uphill battle to control the ANC amid a well-organised campaign to disrupt his intended initiatives.

“He is working with a deputy, a secretary-general and a deputy secretary-general that were not his preferences. He will have little room to wiggle as they squeeze him, intent on frustrating his every move,” he said.

Independent political analyst Shane Dladla says Zuma’s ‘State Capture’ allies are fighting back to reclaim control of the governing party and oust Ramaphosa.

“The real fight back starts now. The Radical Economic Transformation faction that has personified itself around the personality of the ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule has got its back against the wall. They have no choice but to fire on all cylinders in order to get some breathing space and reclaim lost ground within the ANC,” says Dladla.

“Therefore the letter by former President Jacob Zuma is a culmination of events that took place during the past week that were used by the RET faction to advance their campaign. Later it was Lungisa’s letter to the Integrity Commission about the CR17 campaign funding, followed by Tony Yengeni’s letter and finally the Zuma letter. There are striking similarities in content and tone between all these letters captured into detail in the Zuma letter. This can only lead to one conclusion; that the Zuma letter is an outcome of the RET caucus discussion.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg is reporting that Ramaphosa is fighting back and is considering making changes to his cabinet after meeting the NEC and the party’s national officials this weekend.

Ramaphosa is looking for ways to revive South Africa’s stagnant economy and help boost investor confidence in his administration. The economy, already in recession before the coronavirus outbreak struck, is forecast to contract 7.2% this year, according to the Treasury.

Ramaphosa has talked of the urgent need for reforms to revive output, but the slow pace of government policy changes needed to approve everything from new renewable-energy plants to the sale of telecommunications spectrum has drawn criticism from business leaders and labor unions.

The president hasn’t discussed any potential changes with the top six officials of the ruling African National Congress, as is customary, one of the sources said.

Presidency spokesman Tyrone Seale referred a request for comment to ANC spokesman Pule Mabe, who asked that questions be sent by text messages, to which he didn’t immediately respond.

(COMPILED BY INSIDE POLITICS STAFF)

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