South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has survived his latest vote of no confidence – despite the ballot being held in secret. Opposition parties had hoped the secret ballot would mean some MPs from the governing ANC party might side with them against the president. But the motion, called amid repeated allegations of corruption, was defeated by 198 votes to 177.
This news was greeted with cheers and singing by ANC MPs. Speaking afterwards, Mr Zuma said he had come to thank his supporters and “those in parliament who had voted correctly”. “They believe they could use technicalities in parliament to take over the the majority from the ANC,” he told the assembled crowd. “It is impossible: they cannot. We represent the majority.”
Mr Zuma has found himself embroiled in a number of scandals since taking office in 2009, including using taxpayer money for upgrades on his private home, and becoming too close to the wealthy Gupta family, who are accused of trying to influence politician decisions. Both Mr Zuma and the Gupta family deny wrongdoing. Criticism increased following the sacking of the widely-respected finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, in March. But the ANC parliamentary party did not address these criticisms in a statement following the vote, which it called a “soft coup”.
The statement also accused the opposition of attempting “to collapse government, deter service delivery and sow seeds of chaos in society to ultimately grab power”. However, the vote was not a rousing success for the governing party. 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. The ANC’s chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the party was planning to look into disciplining those who had voted against the president, South Africa’s TimesLive website reported.
But the rebels were praised by opposition leaders, who have repeatedly called for votes against the president. The Democratic Alliance’s Mmusi Maimane – who earlier said the vote was one between “right and wrong; between good and evil” – told reporters: “I applaud the courageous ANC people who moved across and said we will vote with our conscience and we will vote for change.”
Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, said the vote had proved South Africa’s democracy works – and warned Mr Zuma it proved they could unseat him. Mr Zuma is due to step down as head of the ANC in December, ahead of the 2019 general election. He has endorsed his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as his successor. Also vying for the leadership is Cyril Ramaphosa, a former trade unionist and one of South Africa’s wealthiest politicians.