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While Ramaphosa flip-flops, Zuma answers SA’s questions

2018-02-14 17:49

President Jacob Zuma has outshone both the ANC and its president, Cyril Ramaphosa, by shedding more light on the nail-biting leadership transition talks than anyone before him.

His 50-odd minute long interview with the SABC on Wednesday revealed a lot more than what Ramaphosa and the governing party have been able to tell the anxiety-gripped nation for more than 10 days.

By and large, Zuma confirmed most of what was already put in the public domain, including that he was indeed rude and disrespectful to his ANC bosses at some point – which he tried to soften as “sharp” and “robust” speech.

But it was the gaps that he was able to fill that made the rather long-winded monologue intriguing.

Now we know that Ramaphosa had, as far back as last Tuesday, agreed on a deal with Zuma that he would leave office some time around July.

Presumably, he was also happy with Zuma delivering the state of the nation address – despite vociferous protests from his lobbyists that it should not be allowed to happen.

And we also know that Ramaphosa subsequently backtracked on the agreement after his colleagues in the ANC top six convinced him otherwise.

This answers the question why the saga has dragged on for so long and the simple answer, if Zuma is to be taken on his word, is that Ramaphosa flip-flopped and lacked conviction.

His colleagues in the top six had to force him to jerk up his act.

What it also did was give us a rare view into the power dynamics in the ANC top six and indications are that Ramaphosa does not have the final word.

We know that ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule agreed with the deal and it is unlikely that his deputy, Jessie Duarte, would have had any qualms with the view that Zuma stay in office longer.

This leaves Ramaphosa’s deputy David Mabuza, chairperson Gwede Mantashe and treasurer-general Paul Mashatile as the likely strongmen in the top six.

Zuma also said, in his typical conspiratorial style, that in fact he had been aware as far back as the ANC national conference last December in Nasrec that there was a plot to block him from delivering the state of the nation address.

Although he did not spell it out, the suggestion was that his detractors were too cowardly to test the idea on the conference floor in front of ANC branch delegates because they were afraid of being defeated.

Notably, Zuma’s future was not discussed at the conference, and his opportunistic attack – which he conceded was based on rumours – was likely to plant early seeds of dissent against Ramaphosa among the rank and file.

It is the classic Zuma strategy of playing the victim to win sympathy.

How he plans to use this sympathy plea in future – if he is to launch a fight back – is for all of us to watch closely, starting with his much-anticipated public statement later on Wednesday.

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November 18 2018