After last week’s high-octane news that painted President Jacob Zuma as an opposition to fairness, transparency, and accountability, NA speaker Baleka Mbete has come out to defend the embattled president.
The signal that trouble was coming began last Monday after Zuma sent an SMS to former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, asking him to return home from his investor roadshow. Gordhan, always quiet looking, adhered by landing at the Heathrow Airport in London hours after.
The shady recall was further complicated when Zuma took an unprecedented decision to exercise his constitutional prerogative to reshuffle the Cabinet unilaterally, without the consent of his fellow officials – dragging Gordhan and his deputy to become part of the mass midnight slaughter in Cabinet.
Nevertheless, ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete believes Zuma doesn’t need to consult anybody before reshuffling his cabinet.
Addressing the media on Sunday after cutting short a working trip to Bangladesh, Mbete said: “there is no ANC process that requires the president to come and have a conference with party members about reshuffles.”
She, however, admitted having knowledge about the reshuffle before Zuma made the announcement.
“The president called me on Thursday and told me what was going to be announced, but not the detail,” she said.
As for the proposal for a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma brought by opposition parties, Mbete promised to urgently reconvene parliament and hold an urgent sitting on the issue
The main opposition parties, the centrist Democratic Alliance (DA) and the ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters Party (EFF), both wrote Mbete asking that she reconvene parliament and hold an urgent sitting on the issue.
Although previous no-confidence motions against Zuma failed, as the ANC has a commanding majority, there is a growing backlash against him from within his own party and its allies after a string of scandals.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said he disagreed with the decision to sack Pravin Gordhan, a widely respected finance minister whose ousting could trigger damaging credit ratings downgrades.
The South African Communist Party (SACP), a key political ally of the ANC, called for Zuma’s resignation on Friday while Gordhan on Saturday called for mass mobilization at a memorial for anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada where the crowd, which included many ANC supporters, chanted for Zuma’s removal.
Meanwhile, the new ministers have long been sworn-in. They were sworn-in last Friday at the Sefako Makgatho presidential guest house in Pretoria. Unlike the swearing in of new ministers after the 2014 national elections, last Friday’s event actually got off to a disorganized start.
Zuma wielded an axe to his cabinet just after midnight on Thursday, appointing ten new ministers and ten new deputy ministers. Five ministers and three deputies lost their jobs while others received new portfolios.