Cape Town – The defeat of the no confidence motion against South Africa President Jacob Zuma in the country’s parliament on Tuesday might not have been a blow to the opposition, but further shows divisions within the ruling ANC party over the president’s continued stay in office, analysts have said.
President Zuma survived the eighth no-confidence vote with 198 for to 177 against, since coming to office in 2009. The motion took place later in parliament on Tuesday, August 8.
Opposition parties and coalition groups had earlier marched to parliament in support of the motion of no-confidence against Zuma. The ANC also had its march after that in support of their president. The downside for the ANC is that the result means at least 26 ANC MPs rebelled, while another nine MPs abstained from voting.
In order for the no-confidence motion to pass. At least 50 out of the ANC’s 249 MPs would have had to vote against the president and all MPs from other parties vote against the president. Richard Calland, an associate professor in Public Law at University of Cape Town, said the defeat of the no-confidence vote may prove to be a pyrrhic victory for Zuma and the ANC.
“Zuma’s political death is proving to be a protracted affair. There was an air of expectation on Tuesday that recent allegations of ‘state capture’ – attested to by a welter of evidence from the so-called #guptaleaks – would be enough to persuade a sufficient number of the members of the ruling ANC to support an opposition-sponsored no confidence vote,” Calland wrote on The South African website.
“Tuesday was remarkably different. On the previous seven occasions that the opposition have tabled no confidence votes since Zuma’s power began in 2009, the ANC has remained steadfast in its support for its beleaguered president. Tueday’s vote was a watershed for the liberation movement that brought an end to apartheid in 1994: around 30 of the 223 ANC MPs who voted yesterday sided with the opposition.
“As the ANC’s chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, ruefully observed afterwards, this is true pause for reflection for the ruling party. Never before has such a significant number of the parliamentary caucus rebelled and defied the party whip.”
Calland said Zuma’s streetwise political skills were well-known and so too were his adeptness at using executive patronage to secure the loyalty of party members as has been made clear in the revelations arising from his links to the Gupta family.
He argued that this was a win-win situation for the opposition.
“They may have lost the battle, but they feel confident that they will win the war. After all, it is clear that Zuma is now their greatest electoral asset, with several polls (including the respected Afrobarometer), showing that across race and class, trust in Zuma has collapsed since he was returned to power for a second term in 2014,” said Calland.
He pointed out that last year, the ANC suffered its first major electoral setbacks since the advent of democracy in 1994 when it lost control of three major city governments in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. “Now, its political management skills appear to be in disarray as factionalism and deep, painful divisions dominate internal party politics. This is all unfolding in the run-up to what is likely to be a bloody five-yearly national elective conference in December, at which the ANC will elect a new President of the party to succeed Zuma.
“That may or may not mark the start of a new era of renewal for the ANC. But Zuma’s term as President of the country is only due to end in 2019. A lot more damage could be done to the country’s economy and its prospects for growth,” he argued.
Calland further said the consequence of that, however, is that the ANC will face the prospect of losing its majority at the national polls for the first time since Nelson Mandela’s historic victory in 1994. “Yesterday may have been a victory for Zuma. But in the longer term it is likely to come to be seen as a major defeat for the ANC,” he said.
Barnaby Fletcher, political analyst for South Africa at Control Risks, told CNBC that Tuesday’s vote was “a statement in itself”.
He referenced a source within the ANC who had said that the party expected Zuma to gain a majority of 218 votes from his party: “This is worse than their worst-case scenario,” he said. However, the lack of defiance is hardly surprising, according to Fletcher. “We never believed it (a no confidence vote) was very likely,” Fletcher said of Control Risk’s house view. “Although there are a lot of ANC MPs (members of parliament) who are not happy, they were never likely to vote en masse for a proposition put forward by the opposition.”
“It does not make sense to overthrow Zuma now – get rid of Zuma now and that throws leadership bids up in the air,” he said.
“But the party certainly knows how to exert itself,” Fletcher continued, saying that once a new leader is in place there becomes a “very credible possibility” that Zuma does not last out until 2019.
According to Eyewitness News, that the ANC just scraped home by a small majority, is a cue for internal party turmoil.
“Will the dissident MPs own up? If they do, will they face party discipline? What would happen if the dissidents were known to include party heavyweights (and potential candidates for the party leadership at the party’s national congress in December 2017) such as Cyril Ramaphosa and Lindiwe Sisulu? Subjecting them to party discipline would risk not just massive intra-party division, but a split within the party – and the further danger that they might team up with the opposition,” the website said.
Writing before the motion was tabled in parliament, Eyewitness News had postulated that whatever happens, “Zuma will work ceaselessly and ruthlessly after the debate to secure the party presidency for his former wife, (and favoured candidate) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, reckoning that in so doing, he will retain the power to shape events (and not least, to keep himself out of jail)”.
Speaking after the vote, Zuma thanked his supporters, who were watching the proceedings from outside parliament, and “those in parliament who had voted correctly”. “They believe they could use technicalities in parliament to take over the majority from the ANC,” Zuma told the assembled crowd. “It is impossible: they cannot. We represent the majority.”
A good number of street vendors and certain businesses in around the Cape Town CBD and parliament did not open for business on Tuesday, ahead of the vote. – The South African/Eyewitness News/CNBC/Southern Times Correspondent.