South Africa

Tomorrow Never Dies: Waiting for Zuma to fall on his sword

There was no way that a week’s worth of playing see-saw with South Africans’ feelings was ever going to culminate in something as polite as a pre-planned morning briefing by President Jacob Zuma to announce his resignation. Zuma’s response to the ANC’s call for him to step down is still anybody’s guess. By CARIEN DU PLESSIS.

Apparently some members of the Cabinet are in a spin. One of them, a President Jacob Zuma loyalist, has been so mortified in recent days about possibly losing her job that she hasn’t dared to go out in public. Any possible appearances have been cancelled, in the same way that the State of the Nation Address was cancelled last week – with little explanation.

Another, more employable, Cabinet member has been similarly mortified, perhaps because she knows that the odds would stack up badly against her once it comes to allegations of graft.

And then there was yet another, who said he had never expected to be in the position in the first place, and who hadn’t been implicated in any serious wrongdoing. He was also indifferent as to whether he’d continue to serve as minister or whether he would be removed soon. He’s apparently been living in a state of shock and surprise anyway for the past seven years, since a reshuffle that saw him appointed.

On Tuesday afternoon, an hour or two after the press conference in which ANC secretary general Ace Magashule announced that the party had resolved to recall Zuma, Government Communications and Information System (GCIS) announced in a press release that the scheduled Cabinet meeting for Wednesday had been cancelled. It quoted communications minister Nkensani Kubayi-Ngubane as saying: “We are alive to the developments taking place in the ruling party. Government reassures South Africans that service delivery will not be impacted upon.”

That is already a lie, because no matter how GCIS has been trying to spin it, not much has been happening since December’s conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre except moves by especially the ANC to remove Zuma from the presidency.

Magashule made it clear that Zuma was asked to leave late on Monday night following the national executive committee meeting, and that he was amenable to resignation, except he wanted three to six months more – and the ANC didn’t think of setting him any deadlines other than saying three to six months were too long.

Magashule said the ANC did expect to get a response on Wednesday from Zuma to its letter, demanding that Zuma resign forthwith.

Journalists therefore went into a spin when news broke that GCIS has been told to set up their systems for an address to the nation by Zuma at 10:00 on Wednesday, roughly the same time that the ANC’s caucus was supposed to meet in its offices at the Parliamentary precinct. There was also word that Zuma’s office in the Union Buildings was in process of being vacated.

This seemed just like the opportunity to resign, except that by the time the ANC got wind of the message about the Zuma address in the morning, it dismissed it as fake news. Even after confirming the briefing with Zuma’s media team, officials who sent SMSes about the briefing were forced to retract:

Dear Colleagues please note I hereby withdraw the message that I sent you about a briefing. I sincerely apologise for the mistake and the inconvenience it has caused as there is no truth to the sms message. I apologize for the mistake! Thanks”, the retraction read.

It’s still unclear what happened behind the scenes on this one, and it’s been over a week since journalists first expected Zuma to resign, but it is clear: Zuma could still agree to resign tomorrow, but it’s not quite clear when exactly this tomorrow will come. DM