Will they, won't they? - ANC MPs brace for #NoConfidence Day

Is Jacob Zuma standing on the precipice? (John McCann, M&G)

Is Jacob Zuma standing on the precipice? (John McCann, M&G)

It’s D-day for President Jacob Zuma and the motion of no confidence against him, and all eyes will be on ANC MPs as they prepare to cast a vote on their president via secret ballot.

Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete announced on Monday that the vote would be held via secret ballot, opening the path for a surprise success of the motion against Zuma.

For the first time in seven previous motions of no confidence during Zuma’s eight year reign, the ANC is a divided house, with several of the party’s 249 MPs publicly calling for Zuma to go.

Those MPs who have openly said they would vote against Zuma on Tuesday in the Democratic Alliance-sponsored motion include Dr Makhosi Khoza and Mondli Gungubele.

Others, like former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, have also openly called for Zuma to go, but have been less forthcoming about how they will vote come Tuesday.

‘I don’t see him surviving’
One MP, who did not want to be named, told News24 on Monday that in the interests of the country, Zuma should step down.

“I don’t see him surviving this one. It will take a miracle for him to survive. The ANC will be seriously tested.”

Another MP said it would be best if Zuma did not subject the party to possibly losing a motion.

“I really believe in the interests of our country, he should step down, and spare us the humiliation.”

Despite being worried about a possible crisis in the ANC, he will vote for Zuma to go.

Others felt that regardless of Mbete’s decision, it would be a betrayal of the party if they were to vote with the opposition.

“The national executive committee of the ANC has spoken. I can’t vote with the opposition, and I’m clear on that,” ANC Scopa whip Nyami Booi said.

“I’m also not being harassed. I can’t support the DA.”

‘It would be stupid’
ANC MP Advocate Bongani Bongo said it would be disingenuous for any ANC MP to vote against the party line.

“The people voted for the ANC into power. So the ANC decided to put me on the list, so I have to abide by what the ANC says I must do,” Bongo said.

“It would be stupid of anyone not to listen to his own organisation when other members [of other parties] are listening to their organisation.

As for voting with the opposition, Bongo said: “You can’t vote with the opposition. I’m not a member of the opposition. I can’t participate in a meeting whose agenda is being set by the opposition.

“It’s like leaving your family and going to other families.”

‘Historic moment’

The DA must wait for the 2019 elections to try and win power fair and square, and not try “backdoor leadership”, he said.

ANC MP Juli Kilian described the decision as a historic moment in the development of South Africa’s young democracy.

“All MPs must take serious stock of their constitutional responsibilities and their oath of office in terms of the Constitution,” she told News24.

“Also, executive members must exercise their responsibilities in terms of the laws of the land and understand that it is the responsibility of elected members to hold them accountable.”

Mbete has now set an example for no confidence motions on provincial and local government level, and secret ballots will have to be introduced there.

‘Zuma will stay put’
Deputy police minister Bongani Mkhongi was adamant that Zuma was going nowhere.

“President Zuma will stay put. He was elected by 11 million people out of 42 million who are eligible. That means the ANC got the majority,” Mkhongi said.

“If the ANC got the majority, we can’t afford this kitchen house question. People who are entering in the house must come in the front door, not the kitchen door.

“If you asking to take the ANC out, what they are raising is skelm baaskap [illegitimate power] of DA to remove a democratically-elected government.”

Mkhongi declared that no ANC MPs would vote with the opposition come the motion on Tuesday. Anyone who does should be fired.

“I guarantee it. At caucus [on Tuesday], the line will be given. No ANC member can vote against its own member. No ANC member will vote with the enemy.”

‘MPs will vote with conscience’
Former tourism minister and NEC member Derek Hanekom told News24 he was reluctant to express how he would vote, saying it would be improper to talk on the matter before the motion.

He did say however that the motion would naturally have less chance of passing under an open ballot.

Regardless, he was confident that ANC MPs would vote with their consciences and in line with their oaths to the Constitution of South Africa, as ordered by the Constitutional Court.

ANC MP Elvis Siwela said: “The ANC has been mandated to rule the country until 2019 and so shall it be. Nobody said the ANC is infallible and we will self-correct.”

Deputy public works minister Jeremy Cronin has been an open critic of the current leadership.

The South African Communist Party, of which Cronin is a member, has called on numerous times for Zuma to be removed, but said it won’t support any move that was “anti-ANC”.

Abstention?
Cronin told News24 in July that he had not made his mind up on how he would vote, and that SACP members were in Parliament on ANC, not SACP tickets.

He did say, however, that some MPs were mulling the option of an abstention route, as it was not yet clear if it would be seen as a direct vote with the opposition.

“An abstention wouldn’t literally be voting with the opposition… but it also wouldn’t be voting for your own organisation.”

He disagreed with those who argued that voting in line with the party was voting against the Constitution when it came to Zuma.

“When you say it is conflict with the Constitution, that’s not strictly speaking true.

“If I hypothetically vote for a UDM motion or a DA motion, I’m not in conflict with the Constitution per se. I might be in conflict with my conscience, or perhaps do it reluctantly.

“I always have the abstention route, which is the one that maybe many of us will choose,” he said.

Constitution first, party second

Veteran ANC member Ben Turok, a former MP who famously walked out of Parliament during a vote on the so-called secrecy bill in 2011, summed up the dilemma MPs will face.

“The first thing they will think about is the Constitutional Court judgment, which said very clearly that your first accountability is your oath of office in Parliament, which is to the Constitution.

“Secondly, your loyalty to the party, and which one takes priority. They will have to choose.”

Turok didn’t believe the issue was cut and dry, but that he has spoken to some ANC MPs to offer advice.

“When most of us made the oath of loyalty, it was many years ago, and it was the ANC of Luthuli and Mandela.

“Today we have a different ANC, which is riddled with corruption and led by Jacob Zuma.

“If I was still an MP, I would say my oath of loyalty was to a different ANC, not to this one. I would not feel bound to an oath of loyalty taken 15 years ago to a different ANC.”

Will they, won’t they?
He said he couldn’t say how the vote would unfold, as the evidence was very mixed. If a number of MPs abstain, it could lead to victory for the opposition.

“Nobody has come out clearly with what they would have to do, so we don’t know.”

He doesn’t think a secret ballot would make much difference, as “people would know” how those who have been outspoken would have voted.

Party MPs who deliberately stayed away or walked out would be charged with ill-discipline, as he was, he believed.

The ANC caucus is meeting at 10:00 on Tuesday, where the party’s line to vote against the motion would be made clear to the caucus.

Secretary general Gwede Mantashe will make an appearance in the meeting, but it was not clear if President Jacob Zuma, who is not an MP, will attend.

The National Assembly requires 50% + 1 of all seats for a motion of no confidence to pass.

An abstention will therefore not affect the opposition goal of luring 50 to 60 ANC MPs to vote, as the motion still needs 201 votes of the 400 to pass.

The sitting will begin from 2pm. – News24

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