JOHANNESBURG – The Sunday Times is reporting that a plan is being crafted behind the scenes to remove President Jacob Zuma from Luthuli House and the Union Buildings, immediately, after the local government elections.
The paper says senior African National Congress (ANC) leaders are among the authors of the ‘Zuma exit plan’ and that they’ve been discussing it in great detail at a number of gatherings.
The Sunday Times says it has the names of senior ANC officials who have secretly been selling the plan to branches, regions and provinces opposed to Zuma’s continued leadership.
The plan includes instructing structures of the ruling party to ease off on public calls for Zuma to resign until after the 3 August poll.
The paper says although these leaders also want Zuma to go, they are worried that removing him now could cost the ANC votes in areas where he remains unpopular.
The plan is apparently for regions and branches to intensify their call for Zuma to step down after the August poll and shortly after petition the office of the secretary general to convene an early elective congress.
A senior leader at Luthuli House told the Sunday Times in Port Elizabeth, where the party launched its election manifesto yesterday, that the plan included instructing structures of the ANC to ease off on public calls for Zuma to resign until after the August poll.
These leaders – although they, too, want Zuma to go – worry that removing him now could cost the party votes in those areas where the president remains popular.
The official said structures, including regions and branches, would be encouraged soon after the poll to intensify their calls for Zuma to step down.
We need to buy time and act only after the elections. We are giving [Zuma] a long rope to hang himself
This will be followed by structures petitioning the office of secretary-general Gwede Mantashe to convene an early elective congress.
According to the ANC constitution, at least five provinces must request a special conference before the party’s national executive committee can convene one. Only an elective conference can choose a new ANC president.
“We are saying to comrades, let us focus on elections now. We have a big task at hand. Let us finish that first,” said a senior leader who wants Zuma removed as president.
“We need to buy time and act only after the elections. We are giving [Zuma] a long rope to hang himself,” he said.
The plan, which is being put into action across all provinces, comes as the ANC yesterday failed to fill the 46, 000-seat Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium where Zuma presented its election manifesto.
It was the second time in four months that Zuma failed to draw capacity crowds to a venue in Port Elizabeth. On December 16 last year, only a handful showed up for a Reconciliation Day event.
While senior leaders who are behind the plan asked to remain anonymous, Zuma’s staunch backer, KwaZulu-Natal chairman Sihle Zikalala, told the Sunday Times the pro-Zuma group within the party was aware of the plan to call for an early conference to remove Zuma.
Zikalala said they would fight back. He described the plan as an “empty threat” to intimidate Zuma’s supporters.
The Sunday Times has learnt that Zuma’s backers also have their own plan, which includes an attempt to discredit the judiciary by distributing an “intelligence report” that links judges to a plot to overthrow the government.
This would aim to counter the argument for Zuma to resign and present the president as a victim of a broader conspiracy involving judges and the opposition.
But a senior party leader, who asked not to be named, said calls for an early conference to get rid of Zuma were getting louder.
- Sunday Times, With Information from Times Live, and Eye Witness News