In motivating their motion of no confidence in the President, the opposition parties [bar the PAC] were at pains to stress that they were seeking the removal of Jacob Zuma and not the ANC.
In response, speakers from the ANC were determined to present the Opposition motion as an attack upon the will of the people as expressed at the last election.
The Opposition, it was averred, was bent on 'regime change'. In turn, the Opposition rebuffed that argument by indicating, correctly, that they were merely seeking to implement the provisions of the Constitution, that changing the President did not mean changing the ruling party, and that they were not seeking to overturn the outcome of the previous election.
Opposition speakers also made the further point –- that if the ANC remained bent on protecting a scandal-ridden and deeply corrupt President, then the voters would take their revenge.
The ANC is likely to look back and rue the day it failed to get rid of its President.
The ANC benches were to greet their defeat of the motion [by 198 votes against, versus 177 for, with 9 abstentions] as a victory for the party and for democracy. In contrast, DA leader Mmusi Maimane was to describe the result as a 'Pyrrhic' victory for the ANC: short term gain would be followed by long term pain. It is difficult to disagree.
What stood out in the debate was that the ANC speakers did not even attempt to defend Zuma as a person or his actions in the Presidency, for how could they defend the indefensible?
Instead, they sought to deflect the Opposition attack by referring variously, to the historic role of the ANC as a liberation movement and its overall achievements in making a better life for all since 1994, along with insinuating that the Opposition was the willing tool of imperialist forces.
So although it is now apparent that 26 ANC MPs broke party ranks and voted for the motion, indicating that there remain some strands of morality within the ruling party, the voters are likely to conclude that, despite some dissent, the ANC as a bloc chose to close ranks behind Zuma.
However much the ANC will go on to say that it will deal with the issues of corruption and state capture in their own time and in their own way, the nation will not take kindly to such matters being dealt with behind closed doors -– especially at a time when the economy is spiraling downwards at an alarming pace.
Beyond parliament, civil society is mobilizing -– against the party, it did so much to put into power.
The good news about the debate is how it demonstrated that the Opposition parties were prepared to suspend their differences in favour of a common purpose. Outside parliament, coalitions in major cities are not without their difficulties, but they are working –- and beginning to root out corruption.
In the streets around Parliament, Opposition supporters sported their party colours yet mixed freely and cheerfully together, suggesting welcome political tolerance. Beyond parliament, civil society is mobilizing -– against the party, it did so much to put into power.
For all its hubris and bravado, the ANC is likely to look back and rue the day it failed to get rid of its President.