JOHANNESBURG: Mr Mantashe made the startling revelations during his appearance at the so-called State Capture proceedings in Johannesburg.
A top leader within the governing party in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), Mr Gwede Mantashe (now national chairperson) said that while he was secretary-general, he and deputy secretary, Ms Jesse Duarte were against the removal of the country’s former president, Mr Jacob Zuma from his position in 2018.
Mr Zuma was removed after the current president, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa was elected with a thin margin at Nasrec in December 2017 beating Mr Zuma’s former wife. Since his removal, the 109-year-old party has been plunged by division and instability.
Those seen closed to Mr Zuma have been wedged outside the critical positions and set up against law enforcement agencies, prompting division which goes against what the party agreed upon emerging from the Nasrec conference, Renewal and Unity crusade.
Mr Mantashe said this on Wednesday while testifying at the state capture commission on the role of the ANC in parliamentary oversight. According to Mr Mantashe, he opposed the removal of Mr Zuma only because he knew it would destabilise the party, the government and the country like it had done when former president, Mr Thabo Mbeki was removed.
He said when the party embraced the Guptas’ diversification of the media, it didn’t know that they had other business interests or that they would later have a hold on Mr Zuma. The fugitive brothers commonly referred to as Guptas were a close ally of Mr Zuma during his almost 9-year-term presidency.
But despite what was happening, he still didn’t think Mr Zuma should be removed, Mr Mantashe said.
“When you get into a room, you pull the pillars, you collapse the system on top of all of us. We don’t take that option because we think it’s a dangerous option, it is a fatal option. I am saying [the motion of no confidence against President Zuma] should have not been done,” he said.
“When you remove a president… for all internal purposes the Cabinet is removed. I can tell you that when the president was removed we received a long list of ministers resigning… basically collapsing government. So when we are dealing with the removal of a president it’s not just a question of a vote of no confidence… we look into the consequences and take a party view on those issues.
“The ANC could never take a Samson Option. The Samson Option, chairperson, is when you get into a room and pull the pillars collapsing the system on top of us… we thought it was a fatal option. This was the approach that Jessie Duarte and I adopted in June 2017 when a motion of no confidence was proposed during president Zuma’s tenure,” he said.
“The removal of presidents is a matter of party organisational issues, which should be best dealt with within the confines of the party. All South African political parties operate in a caucus system in all spheres of government.
“And as a governing party, the ANC will endeavor to rework on this and get to differentiate between participation in a caucus or a study group which may include the participation of ministers.”
Mr Mantashe further said that since Mr Zuma stepped down, the ANC had gone through a period of instability.
“A substantial part of the instability can be attributed to the allegations of involvement of the Guptas in ANC politics and in particular on the perceived hold they had over [Mr] Zuma,” he said.