MS Risk Blog

South African Leader Survives No-Confidence Vote

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Last week, South African President Jacob Zuma survived his latest vote of no-confidence, despite the ballot being held in secret.

While opposition parties had hoped that the secret ballot would mean that some MPs from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party might side with them against the president, the motion, which was called amidst repeated allegations of corruption, was defeated by 198 votes to 177. The news was greeted with cheers and singing by ANC MP’s, with the country’s currency, the rand, taking a dive shortly after the announcement was made.

Speaking shortly after the results of the vote were released, President Zuma stated that he had come to thank his supporters and “those in parliament who had voted correctly.”   He told the assembled crowd,” they believe they could use technicalities in parliament to take over the majority from the ANC,” adding “it is impossible: they cannot. We represent the majority.”

Since taking office in 2009, President Zuma has found himself embroiled in a number of scandals. They include using taxpayer month for upgrades on his private home and more recently becoming too close to the wealth Gupta family, who have been accused of trying to influence politician decisions. Both the president and the Gupta have denied any wrongdoing. Criticism of President Zuma further increased back in March when he dismissed Pravin Gordhan, a widely-respected finance minister.

The ANC parliamentary party however did not address these criticisms in a statement that was released after 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.”

While the vote appears to have again saved President Zuma, it was not a rousing success for the governing party as the result effectively means that at least 26 ANC MP’s rebels, while another nine MPs abstained from voting. South Africa’s TimesLive website has reported that the ANC’s chief whip Jackson Mthembu has stated that the party was planning to look into disciplining those who had voted against the president. The rebels however were praised by opposition leaders, who have repeatedly called for votes against the president.

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.

President 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 the country’s wealthiest politicians.

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