Melanie Verwoerd: Praying for a resignation

"I have never known a man so insensitive to every shred of human decency and honour. He is sick to his soul". These were the words of Bishop Peter Storey to me yesterday in relation to Jacob Zuma.

I could not have put it any better. I had truly hoped that last week's piece would have been my last column about Jacob Zuma. A week later he is still hanging on to power.

Even the ANC seems to have finally come to terms with the fact that this thoroughly corrupt man does not care about his country, party or the individuals that went out of their way to protect and support him all these years.

Watching the shenanigans yesterday, I thought back about something ANC stalwart Cheryl Carolus said to me almost two years ago in an interview. She despaired over the fact that Zuma "had taken this country into the most divisive period of politics the country and ANC had seen… not around policies, not around values, but around personal misdemeanours that had to do with his own enrichment and benefit."

She then added: "Even worse – he got good men and women to lie on his behalf, to effectively violate the oath of office, to distort the truth… And on top of it… he set them up… He let them speak all this rubbish and in the end he dropped them just like that."

The ANC now finds itself in a terrible mess. They have repeatedly asked Zuma to resign. He said no… or rather he said yes, but with so many ludicrous pre-conditions that it boiled down to a no.

By doing so, he forced the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) to take the ultimate step to recall him. I have no doubt that it was a difficult decision for them to take. I have often said that the ANC operates like a big family. They like to keep problems inside the family and find it very difficult to expel anyone – especially the old patriarchs. Thus they instructed Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night to make one final attempt to convince Zuma to step down voluntarily. Ramaphosa took Ace Magashule with him and went to the official residence in Pretoria.

Rumour has it that the police at the gate would at first not let them in. Apparently they were told that they were late and that the president had gone to bed. It was only at the insistence of Ramaphosa (who is, after all, also the deputy president of the country) that they were finally allowed to enter.

I don't know if this is true, but I would well believe it. It would be in line with the total disdain with which Zuma has treated everyone around him.

After another round of requests (or pleas) were unsuccessful, the NEC finally decided to recall him. However, contrary to the news reports over night, they did not give him any deadline. "We will now give him time to reflect and then respond on the decision," said Magashule.

When pushed on the issue by the media Magashule said that they expected Zuma to respond by Wednesday.

The real problem for the ANC will be if he still declines to resign. The only options left to them then are a vote of no-confidence or impeachment. Impeachment will take months. The rules have not been agreed upon by Parliament and unlike a vote of no confidence, it is not only a question of a debate and a vote. Parliament has to prove that Zuma seriously violated the Constitution or law and/or is guilty of some serious misconduct and/or is unable to perform the functions of his office. That would presumably require hearings that will be very time-consuming.

So, if Zuma does not resign, the only option to remove him soon remains a vote of no confidence. The problem is that, according to the rules of Parliament, the EFF's motion has precedence over any other motion tabled by the ANC or another party. Simply put – first come, first served.

The ANC therefore is faced with only three choices: 1) They vote with the EFF and then remove Zuma. However, as stated before, the ANC will find it near impossible to give such a big victory to the EFF. 2) They vote against the EFF motion and later table their own. But if Zuma survives the motion it will be a massive blow to Ramaphosa and will certainly have major implications for the financial markets.

The ANC will also have to allow some time to lapse before tabling their own motion. More importantly, when asked about this scenario, Jessie Duarte indicated to journalists on Tuesday that the ANC does not want to create a precedent – suggesting that they would be very reluctant to table such a motion.

The only other option is for the EFF to withdraw their motion and allow, for the sake of the country (!!) the ANC to table the motion. Unsurprisingly, the EFF has made it clear that it has no interest in doing so.

So the ANC is ultimately dependent on Zuma to resign. And of course, he knows that, which is exactly why he has been able to play hard ball with the NEC.

Without any doubt the next 12 hours could be the most important, but also dangerous since the dawn of our democracy.

Maybe Gwede Mantashe was right. It is time to start praying. 

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. 

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