Thanks to the ANC’s step-aside guidelines, former president Jacob Zuma has not attended the governing party’s national executive committee (NEC) meetings for almost a year.
City Press has learnt that Zuma was told to observe the step-aside rule last year after he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court after ignoring a Constitutional Court order for him to appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.
According to several NEC officials, the former president tried to defy the rule by attending one of the virtual meetings, but was ordered to leave it.
The virtual meeting had been a special NEC sitting convened in July last year to discuss his fate when he was refusing to obey the Constitutional Court order to testify before Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
It is understood that, since his release from prison in September last year on medical parole after serving two months of his sentence, he has not been invited to any party meeting.
Meeting convenors have allegedly been instructed by Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters, not to request his attendance at any sessions.
The high court rescinded Zuma’s parole on December 15, but he has been granted leave to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeal.
As a former president, Zuma is an ex officio member of the NEC and can attend its meetings. However, his 15-month jail sentence means that, according to ANC rules, he should step aside. He is also currently standing trial in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg for fraud, corruption and racketeering alongside French arms company Thales. This also precludes him from participating in ANC activities.
Jacob Zuma Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi said he would not comment on the issue of the former president not attending NEC meetings because it was not a matter of national importance.
Manyi said : I can’t be talking about gossip. I regard that information as gossip, which can’t be entertained when there’s a lot happening in the country
Another senior NEC member said Zuma’s absence from meetings had not affected the party.
“I’m not sure whether he’s been told to step aside or whether he’s no longer being invited to meetings, but, as a member of the organisation, he needs to obey the party’s rules and regulations. I can tell you that he hasn’t attended a single meeting since his [parole was granted],” he said.
Zuma is not the only ANC member who has tried to ignore the party’s step-aside rule.
Last year, suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule tried to defy it by vowing to attend an NEC meeting in May. His efforts were thwarted when the party refused to send him an invitation.
The NEC subsequently tightened its rules, declaring that members who had been criminally charged could not stand for election to any position in the party until they had concluded their court processes.
However, branches have been trying to challenge these guidelines within the party structures. Member of the Mpumalanga provincial legislature Mandla Msibi was elected as provincial treasurer in March.
At the time of his appointment, Msibi was facing charges of murder and attempted murder.
Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede was elected regional chairperson during the provincial congress, despite facing charges of corruption.
In policy discussion documents issued this week, the ANC confirmed the step-aside resolution as part of its organisational renewal agenda to clean up its corruption-tainted public image.
It stated that the agenda would “effectively allow our movement to show zero tolerance of any facilitation of ANC and/or state capture, any dishonest conduct or other serious misconduct, or any unethical conduct.”