Bruce’s List: A guide to informed reads.
There’s a press conference today at 2pm at the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg following the extended and fascinating weekend National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting that discussed (to put it politely) the possibility of removing Jacob Zuma as head of state. Details are still murky so there is only one thing we can know for certain.
The press conference will not begin at 2pm. It will start late. In fact, the warring pro and anti-Zuma factions in the NEC carried on arguing until about 11pm last night, about five hours after the party spokesman announced the place and time of the press conference. So the results of the meeting were not clear when he announced it.
Of course some stuff is clear. Zuma will still be president by Christmas time. But, yes, he is much weaker for what happened in Pretoria over the weekend. This was an open rebellion of senior NEC members and cabinet ministers, triggered by a surprise motion from tourism minister Derek Hanekom proposing that Zuma be recalled from the Union Buildings. It is almost impossible now to imagine Zuma completing his second term but I can imagine some of the “outcomes” of the extended NEC meetings that might be announced later today:
1) Zuma survives the weekend but the issue is to be “discussed” further in some form or other.
2) Er, that’s it.
The fact is Hanekom took the NEC (and probably himself) by surprise. Zuma has never been this close to defeat. There’ll be attempts now to fight back, but how? He can fire Hanekom and his fellow rebels but they will still sit on the NEC and in parliament. All it would need for a vote of no-confidence in Zuma to succeed in the National Assembly would be for 54 ANC MPs to rebel. If that were to happen Zuma would be gone in a few hours.
But I don’t think it’ll come to that either. This is what will most likely happen:
Zuma will agree, in some form, to go early. Cyril Ramaphosa will become interim head of state. Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, one of Zuma’s stoutest defenders at the weekend NEC, will contest the party leadership in December next year. Our politics between now and then will consist of one or other form of this contest. Zuma has to go early to allow his former wife — who has now shown her hand as a Zuma-ite — a decent run at the top ANC job. The longer he hangs around the worse her chances. He is wounded and poisons almost everything and everyone around him.
They won’t, surely, announce anything quite so far-reaching this afternoon. But it was clearly a hell of a meeting. Business Day is exhaustive about it this morning.
Business Day deputy editor Carol Paton reminds us that Hanekom’s motion this weekend is but a part of a much wider effort to save the ANC from the murky waters into which Zuma has led it. And yesterday the paper’s editor, Tim Cohen, was uncharacteristically blunt about the president.
By the time I first visited Cuba, in 2011, the country was a complete wreck. The “middle-class” family I lived with had their food rationed. Havana was dirty and potholed. I had to get hospital care for my son but the Cuban National Hospital just outside the capital was a wreck too. Hundreds of people loitered around its entrance. Sure, the doctors were good when you got to them but their machines didn’t work and they had no medicines. We ended up at a private clinic instead. Here’s a long and exhaustive obituary of Fidel Castro from the Miami Herald. It doesn’t take a line really, but it is clear nonetheless that Castro, while romanticised by Leftists around the Western world was no saint. He was cruel and privileged and full of himself. Perhaps because of my experience in Havana I enjoyed being reminded of this neat and nasty little slash at Castro from the late Christopher Hitchens, back in 2009. Castro was probably also a bit insane.
Finally, after the agony of watching the Springboks fall to defeat after defeat and having then to listen to the pathetic excuses of the captain and coach (who, of course, would not for a moment consider resigning on a point of honour) here’s a rugby story to cheer you up, or, at least, enlighten you. Why are the damned All Blacks so good. Why can’t they be beat? The answer in the fabulous Economist piece is simple — they run straight and they cheat smart.