The African National Congress’s (ANC) show of parliamentary support for President Jacob Zuma against an opposition no-confidence motion was badly damaged when 35 of the party’s MPs failed to vote after a raucous parliamentary debate on 10 November.
Some party supporters say that Zuma could have lost the vote if the opposition attempt to get a secret ballot for the vote had succeeded. After a lengthy, high-volume debate between MPs from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters, the ANC caucus and deputy speaker Leschesa Tsenoli, the MPs were compelled to vote publicly.
The Fight For Survival
Although Zuma comfortably survived the vote, with 214 MPs voting against and 126 MPs voting for his immediate exit, the large number of ANC MPs declining to support Zuma points to his shrinking support base within the party.
Opening for the DA in the debate, Mmusi Maimane made a passionate plea for a united front against Zuma: “We are all members of Team South Africa and we all want a better country […] We can choose Jacob Zuma or we can choose South Africa.”
“The only time we discuss the constitution in this parliament is when the President has violated it,” added Maimane.
But the ANC sent its star speaker, Malusi Gigaba, to wind up for the government side. He quoted a Zen Buddhist master: “We decline to accept your abuse [to the opposition benches], so we return it to you […] and we decline to accept the regime change plan of your global masters.”
Some senior ANC officials say that such public tests of support for Zuma have forced the party to close ranks behind him. They concede that support for Zuma is waning within the party and there is support for a strategy that could edge him towards the exit next year. But for now he is not going anywhere, especially if the opposition calls for it.
Earlier in the day, Zuma met with the ANC caucus in parliament to ensure that he could rely on their full support in the vote. “He came to intimidate us,” an ANC dissident told reporters. Opposition MPs claimed that Zuma’s foes in the ANC had been threatened with investigation and prosecution.
Battle Of The Crowds
Outside the parliament building, a hefty contingent of pro-Zuma demonstrators gathered before the debate, easily outnumbering a small group of protesters from the South Africa First group.
Last week, that anti-Zuma group had mobilised thousands of civic activists, trade unionists and even businesspeople for a march in Tshwane to demand Zuma’s resignation.
It has been one of Jacob Zuma’s worst weeks since he took over the national presidency in 2009. After his lawyers dropped their attempts to delay the publication of public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on relations between Zuma and the Gupta family, the release of the 355-page report has galvanised opposition to the President.
The country’s health workers’ union has dropped its support for Zuma, and the South African Communist Party has stepped up its attacks on him. The erosion of the President’s support within the ANC caucus is another key stage in the unwinding process.
By: Crystal Orderson And Patrick Smith
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