Despite surviving a vote of no-confidence in Parliament on Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma was confirmed as a lame-duck president.
Zuma narrowly escaped being removed as president of South Africa when 177 MPs voted for him to be removed with 198 voting for him to stay and nine abstentions.
With Zuma’s ruling ANC holding a house majority of 249 MPs, the result means that 26 members of his party voted against him while a further nine refused to cast an X in the vote – a strong indication that Zuma is losing control not just of his parliamentary caucus, but of the party.
— Mail & Guardian (@mailandguardian) August 8, 2017
‘The People versus Jacob Zuma’
Earlier in the day, the allegations of corruption and state capture which have dogged Zuma reappeared in arguments for his being chucked out of office. Opposition parties spoke with one message during the debate on the motion of no-confidence vote against President Jacob Zuma in Parliament on Tuesday: the vote was not an attack on the ruling ANC, but against “Duduzane’s father”, as Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema quipped.
The various opposition parties described Zuma as a “corrupt leader” who had sold the country out to a “family of foreigners”. Leaders of the Democratic Alliance, the EFF and the Inkatha Freedom Party, among others, described a venal man who had to be chucked out of office to save the economy, defend the Constitution, alleviate poverty and address the transformative imperatives of the post-apartheid state.
This was “The People versus Jacob Zuma”, they said.
The ANC’s response, aside from the singing and dancing that is the party’s well known tactic to drown out criticism, was to suggest that opposition parties who were unable to win a majority through the ballot box were intent on instigating a back-door “coup d’état” – an allegation repeated by ANC parliamentarians including Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
None of the ANC’s defenders chose to explain why Zuma was a fit and proper person to continue as president of the country.
Rather, Mapisa-Nqakula told the house that she sought to defend the ANC. “My conscience tells me that we need to respect the voters who brought us here … We can’t use means other than the people’s vote to remove the ANC.”
Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa, who was the final ANC speaker, accused opposition parties of attempting regime change and that the vote was merely an attempt to “destabilise, subvert and undermine our democratic order”.
The debate was robust, interspersed by ubiquitous heckling, led on the ANC side by Zuma cheerleaders such as Lindiwe Zulu, and opposition backbenchers from both the EFF and the DA. When speaker Baleka Mbete – much maligned for her ineptitude – assumed her seat in the house during Mthethwa’s speech she was greeted with ironic clapping by the EFF.
The EFF members were strident in their reasons for attending their first vote of no confidence against a president who has survived previous attempts. “Ours, today, is not against the ANC but against the father of Duduzane,” Malema told the house. “We are here today to remove Duduzane’s father because he is the most corrupt individual in the ANC.”
Noting that the opposition had warned the ANC about Zuma’s errant ways during the Nkandla scandal — where former public protector Thuli Madonsela had found that the president and his family had improperly benefited from state coffers when his personal home in Nkandla had been upgraded to the tune of almost R250-million — Malema said: “We are rising against the Guptas, we are rising against those who have surrendered the people’s power to a family of foreigners.”
Political parties and South Africans have become increasingly concerned about mounting documented evidence, most revealed in caches of leaked emails, that suggests Zuma and a coterie of ANC ministers and government officials are part of an extensive network of patronage and kleptocracy that appears to benefit the interests of the politically-connected Gupta family, rather than the country.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, whose party had initiated the Constitutional Court case that led to the finding that the speaker of parliament had the power to call for a secret ballot, described Zuma as “the chief architect of state capture” and urged ANC MPs to vote with their conscience.
The motion requires a majority of 201 votes to succeed and the ANC has 249 MPs. Themba Godi of The African People’s Convention, who is also the head of the standing committee of public accounts in the National Assembly, said: “We will vote in support of good governance and against corruption … Our vote is a protest against corruption, maladministration and the thinning of public resources.”
When Mthethwa said the no-confidence motion was the child of white leaders and their “black stooges”, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said “this motion was not moved by a particular race, it is moved by the people of South Africa”.