ANC Backs Zuma as South African Opposition Seeks His Ouster

  • Motion of no confidence in president will fail: Mantashe
  • Voters will judge ANC harshly, opposition lawmaker says

Jacob Zuma

Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

South Africa’s ruling party leadership rallied around President Jacob Zuma after the nation’s graft ombudsman implied he may have allowed the Gupta family to influence cabinet appointments, vowing that it would block an opposition attempt to unseat him through a no-confidence vote.

The Public Protector’s investigation of Zuma’s links with the Guptas, who are his friends and in business with his son, was “inconclusive” and made no definite findings against him, African National Congress Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe told reporters in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The ANC supported the ombudsman’s directive to establish a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate whether there had been any wrongdoing, he said, following a meeting of the party’s national working committee.

While discontent with Zuma’s leadership is mounting in the ANC after the graft ombudsman’s report and a number of other scandals, the party won’t let the opposition take the lead in ousting him. Lawmakers will debate a motion of no confidence in Zuma in the National Assembly on Thursday introduced by the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party that’s accused the president of abusing his office to promote his own financial interests and those of his allies. The ANC, which has defeated several previous attempts to unseat Zuma, will vote as a block to defend him, according to Mantashe.

“The DA has now made this an annual and frivolous ritual,” Mantashe said. “It is fast losing its meaning. The discussion of this vote of no confidence has no chance of succeeding.”

Zuma Scandals

The Public Protector’s report has increased calls on Zuma to quit. He’s fended off a succession of scandals since taking office in 2009, including a ruling by the nation’s top court in March that he violated his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer money spent on upgrading his private home. Scores of ANC veterans and several serving party leaders, including Jackson Mthembu, the ANC’s chief whip in Parliament, have added their voices to calls for him to go.

“The removal of the president is really dependent on internal ANC structures,” said Anthony Butler, a politics professor at the University of Cape Town. “There is very little chance of any ANC support for a motion of no-confidence brought by an opposition party.”

The ANC controls 62 percent of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, which appoints the president. If a majority of lawmakers backs the no-confidence motion Zuma and his entire cabinet would be forced to resign.

Party Unity

Nicola de Jager, a politics lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, also doesn’t expect ANC lawmakers to break ranks and vote with the opposition, even if they disagree with the party bosses.

“The ANC has always demanded that its lawmakers vote along party policy lines,” she said by phone. “For those who don’t, or even abstain, there have always been consequences. What will be telling if there are a significant number of ANC lawmakers who are absent on Thursday, but they had better have a good excuse not to be present in the National Assembly.”

John Steenhuisen, the DA’s chief whip in Parliament, said the ANC’s continued backing for Zuma meant that it condoned corruption and the violation of the constitution.

“Mr Mantashe is only proving what we all know already, that the ANC is incapable of self-correction and cannot be relied upon to do the right thing for South Africa,” he said. “The voters will judge them harshly.”

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