Editorial Board

Zuma Survives as South Africa Sinks

Parliament has no reason to celebrate its vote of confidence in the president.

Zuma got out of the box.

Photographer: Mark Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

President Jacob Zuma has survived yet another attempt to oust him, beating back a no-confidence vote in South Africa's parliament. A Pyrrhic victory for Zuma's supporters in the ruling African National Congress, the outcome is a clear loss for the rest of the country.

Tuesday's vote was instigated by the opposition in April, after Zuma fired his respected finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, causing a plunge in the currency and a downgrade of the country's credit rating to junk. Gordhan had argued for sensible fiscal policies and against the rampant cronyism in state-owned companies. Under Zuma's leadership, you can't do that.

South Africa slipped into recession in the first quarter of this year. Unemployment is at a 14-year high of nearly 28 percent. Business confidence has fallen, the economy is losing competitiveness, and foreign investors are looking elsewhere. Zuma's response has been to deepen his commitment to divisive and dishonest policies that call for "radical economic transformation" and blame "white monopoly capital" for South Africa's ills.

QuickTake South Africa

Voters have begun to see through it all. Last August, they punished the ANC by giving the opposition control of three of South Africa's biggest urban centers, including Johannesburg and Pretoria. The ANC's continued support for a leader who lacks the public's trust -- Zuma's poll ratings have hit all-time lows -- seems likely to fuel their anger.

In December, Zuma hopes to hand over the reins as party leader to his ex-wife, and to isolate the ANC's would-be reformers, before presidential elections in 2019. Rather than engineer this succession, he may in the end trigger his party's collapse. In view of this week's vote, it would be hard to deny that the party has it coming -- but so turbulent a transition is not what the country needs.

What a waste. Somewhere, Nelson Mandela is weeping.

    To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net .

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