THE BLOG

Editor's Note: Nope, Zuma Won't Be Ejected From Office On Tuesday

ANC MP's say the party's elective conference in December is the focus.

07/08/2017 06:32 SAST | Updated 07/08/2017 06:32 SAST
Marius Bosch / Reuters
Supporters of various opposition parties hold placards calling for the removal of President Jacob Zuma outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, South Africa, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Marius Bosch

For all the talk that Tuesday might be a turning point in South Africa's recent history, there's a much better than even chance that it might turn out to be a massive disappointment to those who want to see change at the top of the national executive.

The much anticipated no-confidence vote, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, might not even take place, depending on Speaker Baleka Mbete's announcement on Monday afternoon. If, as is expected, she decides against a secret vote opposition parties will ask for a judicial review, which will mean Tuesday will be a normal working day in the national legislature.

The ANC is a party in crisis and there's no doubt that President Jacob Zuma needs to leave as soon as is humanly and legally possible.

The leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) have however made it quite clear how the 246 members of their caucus in the National Assembly must vote when a division is called to judge the Democratic Alliance's motion. They are also planning to enforce a strict three-line whip – the most serious of parliamentary disciplinary conventions – and will ensure uniformity with a special caucus meeting at 10:00 on Tuesday morning. Just to make sure that those that are considering joining Pravin Gordhan, Derek Hanekom, Makhosi Khoza and Mondli Gungubele to "vote with their conscience" are whipped into line.

The ANC is a party in crisis and there's no doubt that President Jacob Zuma needs to leave as soon as is humanly and legally possible. He has overseen the proliferation of grand corruption, he has sold off the state to the highest bidder and has enabled the hollowing out of crucial state institutions. The governing party has lost significant support under his watch, it gave Pretoria and Johannesburg to the opposition and has become riven by divisions and factions. Not a great track-record.

The ANC's inability to respect the dividing line between party and state is the main reason for its troubles.

But even so, there won't be enough support in the ANC's caucus to force Zuma out. A veteran ANC MP, who has served on the party's national executive committee (NEC) and in top elected positions within the caucus, says the damage to country and party – in that order – would be too great if Zuma is voted out. He argues that there are less than six months left before a new leadership is elected and that a wholesale cleanout is needed – not the piecemeal replacement of errant leaders.

This MP – who was in the Thabo Mbeki camp before but was embraced by Zuma later on – says the party is in the most strife since 1994 and that its inability to respect the dividing line between party and state is the main reason for its troubles. But he remains adamant that Zuma must stay until December, if only for the sake of national stability. Two other ANC MP's on Sunday night echoed these thoughts, saying that there are genuine fears in certain quarters that Zuma might resort to undemocratic measures should a vote of no confidence succeed.

One MP estimates that up to 100, perhaps more, of the party's caucus would vote against Zuma if a secret ballot is held, including the 36-odd MP's who are part of the informal SACP caucus.

Al three MP's agree that support for Zuma in caucus has receded dramatically in recent times and that all bets are off should the speaker, Baleka Mbete, agree to a secret ballot. That however seems remote as it is known that she has consulted within the party and is well aware what could happen should the ballot be incognito.

A lot of ANC MP's are at a loss about what to do. One MP estimates that up to 100, perhaps more, of the party's caucus would vote against Zuma if a secret ballot is held, including the 36-odd MP's who are part of the informal South African Communist Party (SACP) caucus. Lobbying to convince MP's to push the yellow "abstain" button come Tuesday has been frantic, with appeals to conscience, struggle and posterity being made. Some have even resorted to talk to pastors and men of the cloth for guidance, while others have consulted elders involved in drafting the Constitution for advice. Legal opinions – about MP's rights should they decide to break with party direction and vote in support of the motion – have also been circulated. One particular opinion "has been seen by the right people" one MP said.

This parliament has seen many a crucial vote: the promulgation of the Land Act of 1913, the declaration of war on Germany in 1939, the passing of the Group Areas Act in 1950 and the election of Nelson Mandela as head of state in 1994. If Mbete rules out a secret vote, this eighth no-confidence motion against Zuma won't be considered one of them.