SA in limbo

President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Ministers and Deputy Ministers attend scheduled routine Cabinet Committees meetings in Cape Town. PHOTO supplied

The postponement of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and subsequent cancellation of the ANC NEC meeting scheduled for Wednesday has placed South Africa in limbo. Although Thandi Modise, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, said the postponement would not be for more than a week, it now seems far from the horizon. The primary reason for the delay was the threat of disruption. “This decision is in the best interests of the country,” Speaker Baleka Mbete said.

She said the parliamentary team had listened to “political stakeholders and members of the public in making this decision” and that the address would be postponed in order to “create room… for a more conducive political atmosphere in Parliament”. Mbete said that, although SONA will be postponed, Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, will give his 2018 budget speech as planned on February 21. “The budget speech can only happen after SONA and is crucial to both you and I in informing us how the public purse will be spent.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule confirmed the decision on President Jacob Zuma will be taken in due course. Magashule’s briefing came shortly after ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa briefed the caucus. This was a special meeting of the caucus to deal with the Zuma matter after the former began discussions with Ramaphosa on his exit. Magashule did not confirm the date of departure or decision on Zuma, but said the matter will be concluded soon.

 Magashule said the discussions were constructive and fruitful.“The president of the ANC has released a statement to say there is constructive engagement between him and Zuma,” said Magashule. However, he said there was no date fixed for Zuma’s resignation. It has been reported that Parliament postponed the State of the Nation Address after pressure from all sides that Zuma must not deliver the SONA.

 During the meeting with the party's Parliamentary caucus, ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa said that immunity from prosecution for President Jacob Zuma is not part of "transition" discussions. He also assured the MPs that the talks would be concluded in a "day or two".  Ramaphosa addressed the caucus on Thursday, flanked by party secretary-general Ace Magashule and chief whip, Jackson Mthembu.  “Immunity from prosecution is not even on the table. 

It is not in my powers to give him that,” the sources quoted Ramaphosa as having said. The MPs told the media that Ramaphosa wanted to end speculation in the media that his Tuesday meeting with Zuma involved protecting him from possible corruption charges.  In further developments, The Office of the ANC Chief Whip said in a press release that has noted inaccurate and misleading reports about today’s ANC Parliamentary Caucus meeting.

“Whilst the ANC does not usually comment on caucus discussions because they are confidential internal matters of the ANC; we want to distance ourselves from reports that ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa reportedly told caucus that President Zuma will resign on Saturday, and that he will not be granted immunity." Ramaphosa and his allies are unsure whether they would be able to secure a majority if there is a vote of no-confidence at the ANC's national executive committee (NEC). If the ANC does call for a vote of no-confidence at the NEC and Ramaphosa loses, his authority and influence could be almost irreversibly broken.

So as the country grows anxious for an outcome, this means that he (Ramaphosa ) feels obliged to seek a negotiated exit result that will appease the Zuma faction and this might by implication not please timekeepers. The opposition parties led by the EFF have collectively pressed for a vote of no-confidence, now set by Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete for February 22. The ANC and its alliance partners, the SACP and Cosatu, have a principle of not officially voting with the opposition. If ANC MPs do vote for the parliamentary motion, the opposition parties will, as sure as the sun rises again tomorrow, capture the moral victory of bringing down a sitting ANC president, when the ANC could not do this by itself.

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