Adriaan Basson

Could Zuma be out by next week?

2017-05-18 08:35
President Jacob Zuma.

President Jacob Zuma.

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President Jacob Zuma is at the weakest moment of his term as ANC leader.

Zuma can no longer count on his party’s caucus in Parliament to save him from a humiliating motion of no confidence that threatens to cut short his scandalous reign.

The return of Brian Molefe to Eskom this week – seemingly with the support of Zuma and the Guptas – has pushed the ANC to the edge and there is renewed talk of recalling Zuma at next week’s meeting of the national executive committee (NEC).

Senior ANC members believe the power has shifted sufficiently for Zuma to be recalled on the back of Molefe’s return – the umptieth scandal of his presidency that many in the party now loudly believe will lead to electoral defeat for the ANC in 2019.

Molefe’s return has pitted the ANC against Zuma and the Guptas. Many in the ANC now openly talk about the urgency to remove Zuma “to save what is left of South Africa”.

The ANC has set the government, led by Zuma, an ultimatum: rescind Molefe’s appointment, or else. “Or else” seemingly means “we will get rid of you”.

There is a growing belief in the ANC, even under staunch Zuma supporters who are thinking of their own political futures, that only a Cyril Ramaphosa presidency can save the ANC from electoral defeat in 2019.

There are also some who believe and openly state that even a Ramaphosa presidency will not save the ANC from collapse and that the party is already “dead”.

Zuma’s weakened power has boosted Ramaphosa’s campaign for ANC president and he is now openly campaigning in provinces like Mpumalanga, North West and KwaZulu-Natal that were until recently no-go zones for Zuma’s foes.

Until recently it was unthinkable for an opposition motion of no confidence against Zuma to succeed in Parliament, but the caucus is divided on the matter and there is a strong push-back against the instruction from Luthuli House that they should toe the party line no matter what.

The majority of ANC members still prefer the NEC to provide leadership on the matter and recall Zuma for bringing the party into disrepute, but there is a growing feeling under ANC MPs that the electorate and the ANC’s founding values demand of them to do the right thing when a president is no longer fit to rule.

There is a growing sense in the ANC caucus that “if the NEC can no longer provide moral leadership, we should”.

The return of Molefe may be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is also an open secret that ANC MPs still blame Zuma for “throwing them under the bus” when the president changed his tune in the Constitutional Court by conceding that the public protector’s findings are binding.

This after the ANC caucus protected Zuma during an ad hoc inquiry into Nkandlagate.

ANC MPs are now awaiting the judgment of the Constitutional Court on the matter of a secret ballot in the no confidence vote with bated breath. There are some who believe Zuma is dead in the water if the court rules in favour of a secret ballot.

To succeed with the motion, the opposition parties need a simple majority of 201 votes. The National Freedom Party (six MPs) and African Independent Congress (three) are expected to vote against the motion. This leaves the DA, EFF, IFP, UDM, FF+, Cope, ACDP, Agang SA, PAC and APC with 142 votes.

There are 400 MPs in Parliament of which the ANC holds 249 seats. The means the opposition needs 59 ANC MPs (24% of the caucus) to vote with them to unseat Zuma. After Monday’s court hearing EFF leader Julius Malema said he was confident at least 60 ANC MPs would vote with them.

If the court rules in favour of a secret ballot, there is an expectation in the ANC that even more MPs may be ready to vote out Zuma. Many MPs don’t have other occupations outside Parliament and fear for their livelihood and safety of their families if they openly voted against Zuma.

Section 102 of the Constitution prescribes what happens if a motion of no confidence succeeds: “the President and the other members of the Cabinet and any Deputy Ministers must resign”. This means not only Zuma goes, but the entire executive.

Soon thereafter Parliament must elect a new president from its members. If Parliament fails to elect a new president within 30 days after the vacancy occurred, the national assembly must be dissolved, which will trigger fresh elections.

Chances are likely that the ANC will nominate Ramaphosa as their candidate and that the opposition will support his ascension. Ramaphosa will then proceed to appoint his own cabinet.

Arguments have been made that this would shorten Ramaphosa’s presidency because he would have to complete Zuma’s term. Not so. Section 88(2) of the Constitution states: “No person may hold office as President for more than two terms, but when a person is elected to fill a vacancy in the office of President, the period between that election and the next election of a President is not regarded as a term.”

This effectively means Ramaphosa could be president for almost 12 years (two full terms – if the ANC wins the election – plus Zuma’s last two years).

Next week’s NEC meeting could be the last chance for the ANC to “do the right thing” and prevent the opposition from claiming victory over the removal of Zuma through a no confidence vote, which now seems a much more real possibility than it did a week ago.

- Adriaan Basson is editor of News24. Follow him on Twitter.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    zuma  |  jacob  |  cyril ­ramaphosa  |  anc leadership race
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