Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Star reports Zuma axed
After a few days of political wrangling and drum beating, The Star is reporting that Mbeki has officially axed Jacob Zuma as deputy president. The newspaper, as yet unconfirmed by other major media sources, reports:
In a dramatic day in Johannesburg, the president on Monday axed the man he appointed as his second-in-command in 1999 and again in 2004. Zuma's axing means he will not reply to questions in the National Council of Provinces as scheduled. The decision to fire him came after a meeting of the ANC's extended national working committee at its headquarters at Luthuli House in Johannesburg on Monday. This had followed Mbeki's consultations with senior party leaders, including those in the provinces. Zuma's firing was confirmed by senior government officials on Monday.

It is expected that Zuma will be replaced by ANC national chairperson Mosiuoa Lekota, although Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has also been mentioned. Zuma's axing may also involve a cabinet reshuffle.

Senior ANC insiders said Mbeki had little choice but to act firmly following the damning judgment in the trial of Shaik, Zuma's financial adviser. They conceded, however, that the deputy president's strong support base in the ruling party and its tripartite alliance partners made the president's decision a difficult one.

"I don't think the president has any option but to fire Zuma," one senior ANC source said.

If true, it's a very courageous move by Mbeki, but one that he had to make, both for global legitimacy, and for his own legacy. It may well start a major firestorm within the ANC, but Mbeki is an incredibly shrewd and commanding leader, and I wouldn't be surprised if he, along with other senior party officials, keep the party in line. Don't be surprised to see a number of senior ANC leaders coming out in support of Mbeki's decision to bolster support and bring in the rank and file.