Can the recall of Thabo Mbeki tell us what will happen with Jacob Zuma? Mbeki

Former President Thabo Mbeki. Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Herman Verwey

Can the recall of Thabo Mbeki tell us what will happen with Jacob Zuma?

Those who forget their history are doomed to relive it…

Can the recall of Thabo Mbeki tell us what will happen with Jacob Zuma? Mbeki

Former President Thabo Mbeki. Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Herman Verwey

It’s taken a flurry of deadlocked meetings and stalemated discussions, but the ANC have been left with no choice but to recall Jacob Zuma from office: Just as they did with Thabo Mbeki almost 10 years ago.

The President has lost the support of his party, and even former loyalists like Ace Magashule. The ANC Secretary General both delivered a letter informing Zuma of his recall, and addressed the media to confirm what action the ANC were taking.

So now, the entire country and Zuma’s own party no longer want him hanging around. But does that mean he will go? Does it hell. His point-blank refusal to leave is causing a lot of confusion in South Africa. So perhaps we can learn more looking backwards, rather than forwards?

We’re looking at what happened when Thabo Mbeki got the dreaded recall from his peers back in 2008, to give us a clearer picture of what may happen with Zuma.

The Thabo Mbeki timeline:

Why was Thabo Mbeki recalled?

12 September 2008: Judge Chris Nicholson made the now-infamous decision to throw Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial out of court. He maintained that there was ‘too much political interference’ with the trial, which directly implicated Mbeki in trying to influence the outcome of the investigation.

Remember when our scandals were a little… lighter? It’s not exactly grand corruption on the scale of state capture, is it?

When did the ANC recall Thabo Mbeki?

Saturday 20 September 2008: The National Executive Committee made the unanimous decision to recall Mbeki, following allegations that he had used the country’s law-enforcement system to undermine Zuma’s chances of succeeding him.

When did Thabo Mbeki resign?

Saturday 20 September 2008, 19:30 SAST: In a live, televised addressed to South Africa, Mr Mbeki announced he was standing down as President following the ANC’s decision. He stated he had accepted the will of his party, and he’d leave once “all constitutional requirements” had been met.

Monday 22 September 2008: Parliament reconvened in an emergency meeting, to formally accept the President’s resignation.

What day did Mbeki officially leave office?

Thursday 25 September 2008: This was the day his resignation officially came into effect.

How did Parliament decide on Mbeki’s replacement?

Thursday 25 September 2008: As the President had resigned nine months before the end of his term, the constitution states that the National Assembly had to nominate an interim replacement. Jacob Zuma, who had relinquished his Deputy Presidency to become ANC President, could not take on the responsibility in these circumstances.

Kgalema Motlanthe was given the top job on a nine-month basis, finally handing over to Jacob Zuma after the 2009 general elections.

Will Jacob Zuma’s exit be anything like Thabo Mbeki’s?

They are two fundamentally different politicians, in two fundamentally different situations. From the damaging remarks made by Judge Nicholson, right through to Mbeki being replaced by Motlanthe, we are looking at a two week turn around.

For Jacob Zuma, it’s a fluid scale. Did the process to remove him begin in December 2017, when the ANC promised sweeping change amid a message of unity? Or did it begin the first time he shook hands with the Gupta brothers, beginning a spiral of state capture and corrupt activity?

One thing we saw with Mbeki was an immediate desire to keep his comrades happy. We haven’t seen that with Zuma. What may be more worrying is that Thabo wanted to clear up “constitutional issues” before he left. Luckily, it took him a matter of days before he was satisfied enough to leave.

But just imagine Jacob Zuma pulling that stunt. If he gets a chance to hide behind the constitution, he will use it and abuse it. Yes, Mbeki’s dismissal gives us an idea of what happens and how long it takes. But Jacob Zuma is not cut from the same cloth.