President Jacob Zuma addresses Parliament. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/THE TIMES
President Jacob Zuma addresses Parliament on Thursday. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/THE TIMES

JACOB Zuma is going nowhere. African National Congress (ANC) Northern Cape secretary Zamani Saul begins his paper on factions with a quote by Guinea-Bissau leader Amilcar Cabral: "One form of struggle which we consider to be fundamental is the struggle against our own weaknesses."

This is the struggle facing the ANC as it heads to its national executive committee (NEC) meeting this weekend. A struggle against its biggest weakness — no, it is not its president, but the way "spoils factions" have come to define the former liberation movement. It is facing its biggest challenge yet because a "spoils faction" has emerged under Zuma ready, willing and clearly able to surrender the very sovereignty of the state to a lecherous family business.

The paper further quotes ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe in 2012, when he played a pivotal role in Zuma’s return to the helm of the party, saying "the vibrant and robust engagements by ANC members on leadership and policy matters should not be construed as factions".

The disclosure by Mcebisi Jonas on Wednesday that he was approached by the Guptas to replace former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was simply a very public confirmation of what many in the ANC have known for a long, long time.

When the hysteria subsides, it will be clear the party’s leadership has long been aware of the influence of the Gupta family, but has turned a blind eye. Zuma’s defiance in Parliament on Thursday showed he doesn’t see any danger from the latest disclosure.

He was flippant and dismissive. His mouthpiece and that of his benefactors gave a clear indication of the defence he will use when confronted by the NEC about the relationship: The New Age newspaper reported that Jonas’s disclosure is part of a wider plot to get rid of Zuma.

Once again, he is a victim. Once again, he is innocent in the face of a malignant force seeking to "orchestrate a right-wing seizure of power and those opposed to the radical transformation of the country’s economy". Some ANC members and leaders will lap this up, especially those beholden to the president and the Guptas.

Factions, wrote Saul, "seek to colonise the organisation by subordinating the entire organisational machinery and its structures to a factional interest". Zuma’s faction has colonised the ANC.

The the ANC Youth League respnse to Jonas’s statement is another clear and clumsy indication — it called on the president to recall him.

Zuma survived when he recalled a perfectly able finance minister, to replace him with a crony, but state capture began way before that, the dodgy "intelligence report" into the Treasury, and even the governance crisis in state-owned entities, mostly those in which the Guptas have an interest.

Remember back in December, the ANC told us after four-day finance minister Des van Rooyen was replaced, that the whole saga, which cost the country billions, showed that we had a "listening president".

The appointment of Pravin Gordhan was imposed on Zuma and he is clearly not happy about it — the onslaught against Gordhan over the "rogue" South African Revenue Service unit began in the most critical week for any minister of finance, as he was about to deliver his budget. While the ANC’s response to this was terse at first, it too has died down.

It is clear Zuma will do little to ease Gordhan’s discomfort. The minister now has three options: live with the hounding by the Hawks and SARS commissioner Tom Moyane, resign, or become one of the lightning rods around which the anti-Zuma faction coalesces.

In fact, even the listening ear the president is giving to business at present is being criticised by loyalists, who say the banks and business are becoming "arrogant".

Forgive the cynicism, but the few voices against the ANC’s colonisation by Zuma and his family benefactors does not yet constitute a groundswell. And so, this malignant phenomenon, spoils factionalism, that has come to define the ANC, could be the party’s undoing, but not of its president.

But the true test of Zuma’s strength will come in a few months’ time, when two court rulings are set to be delivered — the spy tapes case and the Constitutional Court judgment on the Nkandla matter.

• Marrian is political editor