Weakened South Africa president faces new no-confidence vote by Parliament

Weakened South Africa president faces new no-confidence vote by Parliament
Weakened South Africa president faces new no-confidence vote by Parliament

Weakened South Africa President Jacob Zuma is set to learn Tuesday whether he still enjoys the loyalty of his African National Congress as Parliament geared up for an unprecedented secret ballot on whether it still has confidence in his rule.

While Zuma has survived at least five parliamentary votes seeking to remove him from office since becoming president in 2009, never before have Parliament members been allowed to vote anonymously.

Zuma’s ANC dominates the Parliament with nearly 250 out of 400 seats and for the motion to pass, at least 50 party members would have to defect to the opposition — something that has never happened before in a party that defeated Weakened South Africa’s apartheid system and is known for its loyalty.

Opposition to Zuma’s rule, however, has been growing amid revelations of corruption and influence peddling, even as the economy has faltered and unemployment has remained stubbornly high in a country marked by deep inequalities of wealth.

Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete shocked South Africans Monday when she announced her decision to allow the vote to proceed on a secret ballot, which would allow party members to vote against their leader outside the public spotlight.

“I understand and accept that a motion of no confidence in the president is a very important matter, a potent tool toward holding the president to account,” she said at a press briefing Monday in Cape Town. She did not take questions from reporters.

The no confidence vote, she said, “constitutes one of the severest political consequences imaginable” and her decision to allow the vote to proceed anonymously is “about putting the resilience of our democratic institution to test.”

In June, Weakened South Africa’s Constitutional Court empowered Mbete to decide whether to allow a secret ballot. A small opposition party, the United Democratic Movement, brought the suit.

“Voting in favor of this motion will be tantamount to throwing a nuclear bomb at our country,” said the ANC’s chief whip in Parliament, Jackson Mthembu. His statement was issued before the ruling on the secret ballot.

If the motion passes, Zuma and his Cabinet would be forced to resign. Mbete, who is also national chairwoman of the ANC, would assume the presidency for 30 days.

This will be the first test of the president since he purged his Cabinet in March. Among those fired was former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who remains a member of Parliament and has indicated he will break ranks with the ANC and vote to remove Zuma from office.

Several other ANC lawmakers have signaled they too will vote with the opposition.

The firing of the internationally popular Gordhan had immediate effects on the economy, with credit ratings agencies Fitch and S&P Global Ratings downgrading South Africa to junk status. They cited political uncertainty in their reviews of the country’s creditworthiness.

The ANC’s alliance partners, the South African Communist Party and COSATU, a coalition of trade unions, told Zuma to quit. A group of anti-apartheid veterans has also asked the president to resign.

Especially damaging to Zuma has been a string of embarrassing, leaked emails showing how close Zuma has been with a controversial, industrialist family, the Guptas. The family has reportedly hand-selected Cabinet ministers and officials to fill Zuma’s government.

“What you have is a private family actually setting up the institutions of government such that they’re the ones that make the decisions about how the country is running,” said Cathy Powell, a law professor at the University of Cape Town.

On Monday, South Africa’s statistician general announced the unemployment remained at 27.7 percent.

Despite the months of damaging revelations and economic bad news, political analyst Ralph Matekga expected the president to survive the vote.

If Zuma were to be recalled, he would retain his position as ANC president until his tenure ends in December. His term as president of the country runs through 2019.

In fact, said Matekga, the vote will have more impact about who succeeds Zuma as ANC party leader and the favored candidate for the next presidential election.

Zuma is backing former foreign affairs minister and the most-recent chair of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma — and his ex-wife. Her strongest opponent, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, represents a more business-friendly faction of the party opposed to Zuma.

This vote “is not about Zuma. Nobody cares about him,” Matekga said. “It’s about the ANC. And it’s about the future costs to the ANC.”

Source :- https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/weakened-south-africa-president-faces-new-no-confidence-vote-by-parliament/2017/08/08/b1524160-7baf-11e7-b2b1-aeba62854dfa_story.html?utm_term=.e89c696e2226