Zuma to Survive No-Confidence Vote, Top Opposition Lawmaker Says

  • National Assembly due to vote on president’s ouster on Aug. 8
  • May be some breakaways, abstentions: DA chief whip Steenhuisen

South African President Jacob Zuma is likely to defeat a motion of no-confidence, irrespective of whether there’s an open vote or secret ballot, as most members of the ruling party will close ranks around him, a senior opposition lawmaker said.

Jacob Zuma

Photographer: The Times/Getty Images

The Democratic Alliance, the biggest opposition party, filed the no-confidence motion in April after Zuma’s decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister prompted two ratings companies to downgrade the nation’s foreign-currency debt to junk. While Zuma has been implicated in several scandals and faces mounting opposition within the ruling African National Congress, only a handful of its lawmakers have publicly said they will defy a party instruction and vote for his ouster.

“I’m not optimistic at all that the ANC will vote Zuma out, secret ballot or no secret ballot,” John Steenhuisen, the DA’s chief whip in parliament, said in an interview in Cape Town. “I do think there will be breakaways, abstentions, failures to pitch on the day and maybe one or two votes against Zuma. That would be a major loss for Zuma and the ANC.”

The ANC has governed Africa’s most-industrialized economy since it took power in the nation’s first multi-racial elections in 1994 and controls 62 percent of the 400 seats in parliament. Disgruntlement with Zuma’s leadership contributed to the party’s worst-ever electoral performance in a municipal vote in August last year. For the no-confidence motion to succeed, it will need the support of at least 50 ANC lawmakers, and all the opposition legislators.

Gordhan and Makhosi Khoza, an ANC lawmaker, have said publicly that Zuma should step down. Jackson Mthembu, the party’s chief whip, has instructed the caucus to vote against the motion.

Speaker Decides

The Constitutional Court ruled in June that Baleka Mbete, the speaker of the National Assembly, should decide the procedure for the motion, which requires a simple majority to pass. Mbete will give her decision before the Aug. 8 vote, her office said on Friday. The United Democratic Movement had asked the court to instruct her to hold it by secret ballot, with opposition parties hoping that would entice ANC lawmakers to support Zuma’s removal as they wouldn’t risk losing their jobs.

The UDM and the Economic Freedom Fighters have warned they may go back to court should Mbete decide against a secret ballot.

The DA could join the lawsuit if Mbete’s decision is irrational or unreasonable, according to Steenhuisen. While the case could delay the debate on the motion, the court may refuse to grant an interdict against it taking place on the grounds that it isn’t urgent, he said.

“Another motion of no confidence could be tabled,” Steenhuisen said. “We want the vote to proceed and we want the ANC to either dump Zuma or take ownership of him. That for us is the bigger argument here, rather than just the secret ballot.”

Zuma, 75, who’s due to step down as ANC leader in December and as national president in 2019, has defeated several previous attempts to oust him. Pressure has mounted on him to go following the leaking of thousands of emails to the local media that allegedly implicate him and his allies in the looting of billions of rand from state coffers. Zuma denies wrongdoing.

“We are looking at a very vast network, a multi-billion rand network, of mutually reinforcing interests,” Steenhuisen said. “There are people who have an intrinsic interest in making sure that the taps don’t run dry.”


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