How long can President Jacob Zuma survive, especially as the results of Tuesday’s vote of no confidence against the president in parliament confirmed only a narrow victory for those supporting his presidency?
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema believes not for much long. Malema said Tuesday’s outcome marked the beginning of the ANC’s destruction where, for the first time, the party’s MPs had defied its official line.
“They are done, they are finished. Anyone who doubted that the ANC is divided, anyone who doubted that the ANC has got people who are seriously not happy with what is happening in the movement, now you’ve got material evidence of such,” Malema said.
In September, the EFF will head to the constitutional court in a bid to have Zuma impeached. Malema said along with this impeachment bid, the party would not rule out the possibility of putting forward another motion of no confidence.
He said the result would also embolden ANC MPs who may have wanted to support the motion, but feared isolation from their party.
“Now they get more courage to say even if they wanted to vote with us, but got scared, they now have evidence that among them there are people who think like them, which will give them more courage,” he said.
Thirty-five ANC members of parliament broke party ranks with 26 voting for him to be removed and nine abstaining from voting. This is the first time that MPs have voted against a sitting president in a parliamentary vote.
The ruling party holds a house majority of 249 MPs. In total, 177 MPs voted for him to be removed with 198 voting for him to stay — a strong indication that both the ANC’s parliamentary caucus and the party was losing faith in Zuma’s leadership. For the president to be removed the motion of no confidence required 201 votes in total.
The EFF has the backing of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in its impeachment bid. DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the narrow defeat wouldn’t be the last time the party attempted to topple Zuma.
Maimane said: “The ball is now in Jacob Zuma’s court to prove to South Africa that he can do the courageous thing and step down and if he can’t we’ll continue. We’ll fight him in court in September and I’ll ensure that 2019 comes soon,” Maimane said.
United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa, whose party made the Constitutional Court application for a secret ballot, expressed surprise that 35 ANC MPs had expressed their displeasure with Zuma.
“I was surprised, I didn’t expect that. I was counting ten [ANC MPs] or so. We still would have made a statement even if there were only five. But to have more than 25 we have made a very big statement,” he said.
Like the DA the UDM would be supporting the EFF’s impeachment court bid later this year.
ANC MP and Small Business Development minister Lindiwe Zulu, who led ANC MPs in song all day said while she was happy with the outcome of the vote and that action needed to be taken against dissenting ANC MPs.
“Quite frankly, comrades who do like that remind me of the old days. Where we used to be struggling and hiding somewhere and among us some of our own would tell the boers where we are,” she said.
“If you can’t unite with us then it’s better you leave us in peace and let us struggle it out, let us fight it out and see how we fix ourselves as an organization”.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the result, despite ANC members of parliament voting against the president, was an indication of “democracy at work”.
Despite some MPs breaking ranks, ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu said he was “happy” with the result, because the “ANC government will not collapse and the ANC MPs have voted to defend the ANC”.
Mthembu said that ANC MPs who had debated the motion, including arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa and defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, with “the sole purpose of defending the ANC”.
That the ANC had shifted the focus of the motion of no confidence from displeasure with Zuma to an attack by opposition parties on the ANC was apparent in the national legislature as none of the ANC MPs who debated mentioned the president in their prepared speeches.
Mthembu said that while he would “celebrate the result” the ANC had to ensure that all the issues that had lead to the vote of no confidence, including allegations of state capture being levelled at the president, government ministers and officials working in state-owned enterprises should “be brought to parliament” where people should be held accountable.
He also conceded that the ANC was experiencing “rampant factionalism” which required immediate attention in the lead-up to the party’s elective conference in December. Mthembu would not be drawn on whether any action would be taken against those MPs who had voted against the party line, stating that he still had to “do the maths” on the result.