Mduduzi Manana stepped down as deputy minister of higher education yesterday after he was given an ultimatum by President Jacob Zuma – resign or be fired.
Insiders said Manana did not resign of his own will, but was instructed to do so by Zuma during a meeting on Friday.
“The president told him step down or he will have to fire him. It was not his choice at all,” said an insider.
By yesterday Manana, who has been charged with assaulting two women at a nightclub in Johannesburg two weeks ago, had not stepped down as an MP.
He issued a statement yesterday apologising for his actions. His departure comes in a week when Manana received support from senior female ANC leaders during a heated national working committee meeting.
The Sunday Times can reveal that Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson argued against disciplining Manana.
Insiders who attended the Monday meeting of the national working committee, on the 11th floor of Luthuli House, said they were astonished when some of the party’s leading women sided with a man who had admitted to assaulting a woman.
“They said discipline in the ANC must be applied in general and that there must be no holy cows. It was shocking,” said one insider.
Mokonyane and Joemat-Pettersson’s stance was in line with ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini’s controversial statement that other senior leaders should be disciplined before action could be taken against Manana.
Mokonyane is said to have attacked Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. She said his public pronouncements on corruption implied that “all of us are corrupt”.
Those at the meeting said secretary-general Gwede Mantashe came to Ramaphosa’s defence, saying the deputy president had never mentioned names.
“Gwede said people shouldn’t take a jacket that is hanging and wear it [as theirs]. He said the DP had never mentioned anyone by name.”
Mokonyane reacted angrily when approached for comment. She said a statement after the meeting had not singled out individuals and what they had said.
“I don’t leak information about ANC meetings and I will not actually say or give the answer that you want.
“The ANC has pronounced on this matter. Who told you what were the discussions in the ANC meeting? Because he doesn’t sit in that meeting. Can’t you guys live with the decisions of the ANC and stop messing us up?” said Mokonyane.
Joemat-Pettersson did not respond to phone calls and text messages.
Mantashe said on Tuesday that the meeting had decided that Manana should be disciplined.
NWC members this week described the meeting as “toxic” because Zuma’s backers pushed for the purging of the president’s detractors. Insiders said the “Zuma firing squad” called for the heads of all MPs suspected of having supported the vote of no confidence against Zuma.
But they claimed Zuma had been tamed by fellow top-six leaders in an earlier meeting and had advised against a witch-hunt.
The meeting agreed that only those who had publicly revealed that they had voted with the opposition should be disciplined.
MP Makhosi Khoza, former tourism minister Derek Hanekom and former Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele were identified.
Hanekom did not attend the meeting on Monday, but that did not stop the onslaught against him. “Derek is big-headed … everyone said that he must be disciplined. He can’t be above discipline,” said a leader.
He said that there was a firm recommendation from the committee that Hanekom be removed as chairman of the party’s national disciplinary committee and be replaced by his deputy, Susan Shabangu.
But another NWC member said Hanekom would appear before ANC officials to explain “his tweets”.
Hanekom told the Sunday Times he was not aware of attempts to remove him.
Mantashe said Hanekom’s tweets compromised him as chairman.
“His tweets put him in a very difficult position to be able to chair the committee. When cases come before him, everyone will ask him to recuse himself.”
Another NWC leader said there were also calls for disciplinary committee appeals chairman Jeff Radebe to be removed. Zuma backers suspect he may have voted in favour of the no-confidence motion.
“We were saying we can’t get rid of one without looking at the ill-discipline of others. If Derek must be removed from the disciplinary committee, then Jeff must be removed as chair of the appeals committee. We can’t have implicated people making decisions on others who are implicated,” the NWC member said.
ANC national chairwoman and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete was attacked in her absence. She sent an apology and a senior ANC leader said she had expected a full-scale attack. There was a proposal that she should be taken to task for allowing the secret ballot in the no-confidence vote.