Zuma Reign: The end of Zuptastan through Guptamails?

Be warned: these are the final days of Zuptastan and like a wounded animal, President Jacob Zuma is most dangerous after surviving the weekend’s brutal meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC).

The tower of power is collapsing and Zuma knows this. But it won’t be a comfortable ride; those eating at the trough of Zuma patronage will eat faster as their time runs out. Capturing will become grabbing and constitutionalists trying to stop the rot may – literally – be in the firing line.

Zuma, the main custodian of the racket, knows the end is nigh (see Into SA News on May 27) and that’s why he threatened his own party on Sunday evening in an unprecedented attack, described by some as delusional and deranged.

h3. Zuma in a corner

“You don’t want to see the real Jacob Zuma” the president of our constitutional democracy reportedly said towards the end of his 90-minute tirade, during which he accused NEC members who called for him to step down of colluding with “Western forces” and threatened them not to “push me too far”.

Speculation is already rife of a fresh Cabinet reshuffle and caucus recall to “punish” his opponents in the ANC.

This is a man in a corner whose corrupt empire is imploding around him. Zuma and his closest allies may convince themselves that the ZANC is still in charge, but all the objective facts point otherwise. A new Ipsos survey shows Zuma’s support is at its lowest ever – even under ANC supporters.

Zuma woke up on Sunday to the news that a massive dump of emails from the servers of his capturers, the Guptas, had found its way to City Press and the Sunday Times. This is the real Guptagate: the emails reveal the extent to which Zuma, his family and a large part of the ANC was captured by the Guptas for their own personal gain.

In a normal democracy with functioning institutions, the police chief would have addressed the nation by now to announce the establishment of a special task force into state capture. Not here, where we no longer have a dedicated anti-corruption agency and where the acting police chief is spending most of his time defending himself against a corruption probe by the police watchdog.

h3. Exposing the rot

In the absence of an able and functioning police force, it is up to the other institutions of democracy to take up the cudgels in the public interest: civil society organisations, the media, members of parliament and the courts. The media has been sterling in exposing the depth of the rot; MPs from all parties, including the ANC, are finally finding their voices in the legislature and have asked for an investigation into state capture, and this evidence will without doubt find its way to the courts.

The #GuptaEmails make the Schabir Shaik trial look like a picnic. And we haven’t even seen the bank statements.

Insiders believe that NEC is now firmly split between the ZANC and the “old” ANC, but that not enough members of the second group have found the courage to confront Zuma directly.

At the weekend’s NEC, about 20 members told Zuma to his face to step down. A bit more argued for Zuma to stay while most NEC members who spoke did not take a firm stand either way, but expressed concern about the state of the party.

Bathabile Dlamini was right: plenty of these ANC leaders have their own skeletons; some small and some very big. Zuma knows them and his threats to “not push me too far” should be seen in this context.

All eyes now turn to the Constitutional Court, who is expected to rule within the next week or two whether a secret ballot is required when MPs vote for or against a motion of no confidence in the president.

h3. Zuma is not going down alone

The NEC made it clear that ANC members should never support a motion brought by the opposition, but a secret ballot could significantly change things for ANC MPs who want to save the party from Zuptastan. If the fear of expulsion and intimidation is removed, MPs may find it easier to vote Zuma out.

No wonder Zuma is allegedly considering changing the caucus.

As these threats of internal revolt mount and more evidence about the extent of Zuptastan is released, Zuma will fight back harder and unleash “the real Jacob Zuma” on South Africa and the ANC.

If his opponents are serious about “capturing” the ANC back from Zuma and the Guptas, they will need to be battle fit. Of one thing I’m certain: Zuma is not going down alone.

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