A DEFIANT President Jacob Zuma has broken his silence on the ANC’s decision to remove him from office, saying he would not be bullied into resigning for no apparent reason.
He suggested that the new ANC leadership, led by party president Cyril Ramaphosa, was abusing its authority by forcing him to vacate office without furnishing him with convincing reasons other than the baseless and vindictive assertions made in public about his stewardship of the country.
In an interview with SABC News at his office in the Union Buildings on Wednesday, Zuma went on a warpath against the new ANC leadership. He accused them of taking “strange and rushed” decisions, plunging the party into a crisis, of being vindictive and not following ANC traditions and practices on transitions from one party leader to the other.
He made it clear that he would not accede to the ANC national executive committee’s (NEC) decision for him to resign by end of business today, saying only Parliament – whose members elected him as president – had the power to kick him out.
Denying that he had defied the ANC, Zuma said he merely wants convincing reasons why he has to step down than be subjected to “immature politics”.
The president said the new NEC “misinterpreted” the outcomes of the December national conference at Nasrec to mean he had to be kicked out of the Union Buildings in favour of Ramaphosa, who was elected new ANC president.
“You don’t force people. You don’t just say, because I have the authority, you must go. It’s just two months after the conference. Just two months,” Zuma said in an interview with senior SABC political reporter Mzwandile Mbeje.
“I think we are being plunged in [to] a crisis, which my comrades, my leaders will regret because some people may not like this; [and] may feel there is something wrong. If the leadership of the ANC is not careful, they might actually cause a bigger problem than we think. You don’t just apply your authority in a manner that could actually cause problems for the organisation. I hope they would know how to handle the organisation.”
Zuma gave his side of the story hours after ANC Treasurer General Paul Mashatile and party Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu told the nation, following an ANC Parliamentary Caucus meeting, that the president had until the end of business on Wednesday to resign or face a motion of no confidence in Parliament tomorrow.
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete subsequently confirmed that a motion of no confidence had been scheduled for Thursday afternoon after a Chief Whips Forum – a meeting of all the Chief Whips of political parties represented in Parliament – agreed on the programme and logistical arrangements. The ANC caucus later confirmed it would support the EFF’s motion against Zuma.
But a defiant Zuma fired a salvo at the ANC leadership, suggesting that they were hell-bent on unseating him instead of uniting the organisation and preparing for the next general elections as per ANC tradition every five years when power in the party exchanges hands between conferences and the general elections.
He said neither the Top Six nor the NEC has provided him with reasons why he had to step down or what he had done wrong.
“It’s not a policy of the ANC that once you have the conference of the ANC, immediately there is a new president, then there must be a handover. There is nothing of that nature. Once you take the movement into a national elective conference, a new president is elected, the job of that president is to take over the leadership of the ANC, go to the headquarters, [and] prepare for the elections in the next 18 months. And this has been the accepted practice of the ANC.”
He added: “Then the president would lead the organisation in the campaign…win the elections and after winning the elections he finally gets elected by Parliament to become the president of the country. And he is inaugurated. And then there is handover.”
In a veiled attack on Mashatile, who has said Zuma had to go to avoid two centres of power, Zuma said such talk was misplaced because the phrase was coined and used in the run up to the Polokwane conference in 2007 to highlight the danger of electing former President Thabo Mbeki for a third term as ANC leader.
Insisting that the Top Six was unfair and vindictive, Zuma said they rejected and even failed to present his proposed exit “package” to the NEC, which included him remaining in office for up to six months to ensure a smooth hand over to Ramaphosa.
In that period, he would have wrapped up his key engagements on the continent and within Brics, share government power with Ramaphosa – and introduce him to African and world leaders to build confidence and allay fears Zuma was being elbowed out.
After Ramaphosa and ANC secretary general Ace Magashule had agreed with him, Zuma said, they later returned in a “different mood” and said their Top Six colleagues had rejected the plan.
“So, it was clear to me that there is a problem here. When the NEC came out with the decision, it was not surprising.”
However, Zuma denied he defied the leadership, saying he merely disagreed with their decision and the manner it was taken.
“If Parliament says we don’t want you, ordinary people who have elected me, I don’t think there would be a problem. I am out. You can’t force a decision as its being done now to another leader,” Zuma maintained.