POLITICS

'The Moment Has Arrived'

Or has it?

07/08/2017 15:15 SAST | Updated 07/08/2017 21:16 SAST
Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Supporters of South African President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC) cheer at a rally to launch the ANC's local government election manifesto in Port Elizabeth, April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Analysis

"We will be working furiously," said an ANC MP on Monday night after National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete sent a seismic shift through the political terrain when she decided that MPs would be allowed to vote by secret ballot in Tuesday's eighth motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma.

Lobbying was set to continue all night to get at least 50 members of the ANC to vote with the motion of no confidence and effectively against their party and president. These 50 votes will hold the swing, as it will ensure the motion passes with a simple majority in the National Assembly. Many MPs are only flying into Cape Town on Tuesday morning for the afternoon vote and caucuses, both informal and formal, were held all over the country.

"The moment has arrived," said the ANC MP in reference to the end of Zuma's administration. The ANC has faced and supported Zuma through nine scandals both before and after he became president.

Now Zuma is threatening the ANC's incumbency in office.

An Ipsos poll in July found that the ANC's national support was below 50 percent, meaning it would lose a vote if a poll were held today. While pollster Mari Harris of Ipsos adds caveats to qualify the outcome, she says the survey showed that the main factor suppressing ANC support was its president.

This has set the stage for a very different motion of no confidence in Parliament to the seven before.

Ipsos asked a representative sample of South Africans who they would vote for and the ANC tipped below a majority for the second time since it came to office in 1994. The previous time was in November 2016.

This has set the stage for a very different motion of no confidence in Parliament to the seven before it through which the president has sailed like a skilled helmsman through mildly choppy waters.

The extent of the capture of the state, the president's proximity to the Gupta family which is at the epicentre of the crony network and the billions squandered and stolen, has shifted political sentiment.

Parliament has been turned into a protest precinct as waves of angry South Africans began rolling up at the Assembly of the People from Monday afternoon with a single call: Zuma Must Go. Since Zuma fired finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas in April, millions of South Africans have mobilised and protested to insist on his exit from office.

The parliamentary opposition has united to join this call which if successful will see South Africa change its president for the fifth time in 24 years.

Yet Zuma is the Houdini of South African politics. This Velcro man has successfully eluded accountability for nine scandals and political crises. Two have related to his political life while the rest have amounted to various acts of alleged corruption and cronyism. A cat has nine lives and the assumption had always been that Zuma had more.

But by yesterday, the President's growing list of detractors in the party said there was sufficient support for the motion of no confidence to pass. Their calculations include: the MP's who have already said publicly they will vote with their conscience; the powerful contingent of SA Communist Party and Cosatu MPs as well as substantial blocs of members from Gauteng, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape where opposition to Zuma is most pronounced.

But a conscientious objector said lines were not so clear and that no provincial caucus of members would vote by bloc.

Zuma is the Houdini of South African politics.

Most commentators polled did not believe a motion of no confidence would pass, with or without a secret ballot.

But the political terrain in South Africa is shifting fast as Mbete noted when she made her decision to allow a secret ballot and alluded to a South African public which is baying loudly for accountability.