Tuesday is D-day for Zuma. Parliament faces a showdown

2017-08-06 06:01
President Jacob Zuma.

President Jacob Zuma.

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Tuesday is D-Day for President Jacob Zuma. By the end of the day he will know whether he has survived the umpteenth attempt to oust him or whether he has to vacate the Union Buildings and his Mahlamba Ndlopfu presidential residence.

As the build-up to the opposition-initiated vote of no confidence motion in the National Assembly reaches fever pitch, there is frantic lobbying from both sides of the divide to convince MPs to cast their votes a certain way.

Zuma’s supporters are telling citizens and each other that removing him is not in the country’s best interests, while his opponents inside and outside of the ANC are arguing that this is the best chance to defend the Constitution and halt state capture.

Opposition parties claim that they have secured enough votes to meet the 201 “yes” votes they need to remove him. A list with names of ANC MPs favouring a vote of conscience is also circulating, although its veracity could not be established.

However, the ANC has called for a three-line whip – compulsory attendance at a parliamentary sitting – and has instructed all its MPs to vote against the motion.

The party insists that it does not oppose the vote being held in secret.

But the ANC and Zuma’s hopes of success could be scuppered by opposition parties as they gear up for a court battle should National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete decline a secret vote.

Yesterday, the DA was consulting its lawyers after Mbete missed a 9am DA-imposed deadline to reveal whether voting during the motion would be done by secret or open ballot.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said Mbete was leaving “this announcement to the last possible moment in order to make this about the secret ballot rather than Zuma”.

If she decides against a secret ballot, opposition parties could take her decision on review, depending on her reasons for doing so. The motion, in effect, seeks to dissolve the entire executive.

By yesterday, Zuma opponents in the ANC remained uncertain about how Tuesday’s vote would unfold.

“I think it is going to be something that changes hour by hour,” said one of Zuma’s staunchest critics.

“In all likelihood, I think it is going to go to court,” he added.

On Friday, ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu said voting to remove Zuma would not only “collapse government”, but also cause “enormous fracturing” in the party and be tantamount to throwing “a nuclear bomb” on South Africa.

He said the ANC caucus discussed the motion with four of the party’s top six officials in attendance.

The caucus made it clear that it “would not be led by the opposition”.

SECURITY ON MAXIMUM ALERT

Ahead of what could be one of the most dramatic events in post-1994 South Africa, Parliament’s protection services held a meeting yesterday in the legislative precinct.

The “white shirts”, a group of so-called bouncers employed by the legislature, held a separate meeting away from Parliament. Also in attendance were representatives of the State Security Agency, the SA Police Service and the Presidential Protection Unit.

Sources in Parliament’s protection services told City Press that, because of this, their supervisors had no clue about the day’s security arrangements.

City Press also learnt that all seats in the public gallery had been reserved, and that a number of members of Andile Mngxitama’s Black First Land First movement had applied and secured them.

The ANC is expected to flood the public gallery with its supporters.

WHO WILL VOTE AGAINST THEIR PARTY?

While ANC MPs Makhosi Khoza and Mondli Gungubele may vote with the opposition, City Press has learnt that disgruntled ANC MPs, who were sent to Parliament to quell factional battles in their provinces, may do the same.

Sources in the Economic Freedom Fighters told City Press about a bloc of disgruntled ANC MPs – friends of their leader, Julius Malema – who were removed from the Limpopo provincial government to warm up Parliament’s back benches.

The list also features, they said, other disgruntled MPs removed as mayors and MECs.

But while some MPs prefer a vote of conscience, there is no guarantee that they will vote this way if the motion is not secret. A petition purporting to come from Western Cape struggle veterans, which includes the names of MPs and members of the Cabinet, was circulating yesterday supporting the motion.

ANC MP Pravin Gordhan said: “I have been talking publicly, so you do not have to worry about me”.

In a TV interview, Gordhan said: “Conscience is going to be an important factor,” adding that others had made the vote “about a choice between allegiance to the Constitution and the influence of an individual MP’s political party. Let us wait until Tuesday and see what happens. I have said that my conscience will guide me.”

Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Obed Bapela said he would vote against the motion. He added that a secret vote would set a precedent that would enable the rich “to buy MPs for their own selfish interests”.

“This will be working against the aspirations of the poor and will reduce the strength of the political parties, who are the ones put into office by the voters,” he said.

“Yes, one took an oath to be loyal to the Constitution, and in voting against the motion I will be staying true to the constitutional obligations and respecting the outcome of the 2014 elections, where the ANC got 62%.”

But others were more cautious. The first ANC MP on the voting list, Bev Abrahams, said: “You will have to wait for Tuesday once we have voted. I am the first one, so you will see which direction I vote. Once we have voted, you will see my name first”.

ANC MP Fezile Bhengu said: “You do not go around telling people how you are going to vote.”

‘WE WILL DEFEND THE GAINS OF THE REVOLUTION’

Deputy Defence Minister Kebby Maphatsoe said he was going to toe the ANC voting line.

“To vote against the motion is to defend the gains of the revolution and make sure that we fast track the eradication of poverty, unemployment and inequality. People who are pushing this motion are the ones who want to reverse the gains,” he said.

He said those who wanted Zuma out were “speaking to some of our people, but the number that they want they will never get”.

Maphatsoe said Zuma might even receive votes from opposition benches because they know Zuma’s recall would harm the economy. “Not all opposition parties think this is the correct way. The implications of removing a sitting president are not good for our country,” he said.

‘ZUMA LOSS WILL HELP NKOSAZANA’

Anti-Zuma campaigners fear that an opposition-led bid to oust him would generate sympathy for presidential candidate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma ahead of the ANC’s December conference.

“This [motion] might even derail the plan of ridding the ANC of corrupt elements,” said one MP.

Politically, it would be wrong to remove Zuma on Tuesday, “immaterial of how angry you might be”.

“We have a conference coming now. That is where many of my comrades are focusing their energy.”

Party members campaigning for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma were also
doubtful the opposition would secure enough votes to succeed.

“They can vote Zuma out ... Then the [ANC] executive sits, recalls those MPs, replaces them with others and he goes back to Parliament,” said the insider.

“You must understand that he will fight to the bitter end.”

He said Mbete would also “wait for the ANC to get rid of all its MPs who they think voted for the motion to succeed – and then she brings him in two or three days and they vote him back in. It is as simple as that.”

Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize said ANC members could not follow an opposition party lead. “We have never been guided or led by the opposition on positions we take. So, for me, that is a big issue. We cannot have the opposition setting the agenda.”

Correctional Services Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla said he would oppose the motion because it was “conceived by the opposition parties and meant to advance their interests”. He said removing Zuma would not end the ANC’s problems.

CIVIL SOCIETY RAMPS UP PRESSURE

This week, civil society piled pressure on MPs to heed the calls of millions of “angry” South Africans and get rid of the Zuma government.

The SA Federation of Trade Unions said the ANC was no longer the leader of a national liberation struggle, but a cringing apologist for a corrupt leadership.

The SA Council of Churches said MPs had the opportunity to “turn the tide on questionable leadership practices”.

The ANC’s own veterans and stalwarts said MPs must be prepared to “contribute to the restoration of the highest ethical standards and values society expects of the ANC and its MPs” and that their decisions would go down in history.

Makwetla said Zuma should step down as president of both party and country at the ANC leadership conference in December.

“Delegates must discuss to what extent his continued stay of good service is,” he said.

COMMUNIST CONFUSION

The SA Communist Party (SACP), which has about 50 members in the ANC caucus, is torn between its very public demand for Zuma to go and siding with the opposition on the motion.

Insiders said despite the party’s pronouncement this week that it would vote against the motion, internal deliberations were ongoing.

“The SACP’s Constitution prescribes that its members who serve in other structures should subject themselves to the decisions of those structures,” said one SACP leader.

“That is the sticking point.”

While the SACP will march together with civil society on Monday, its demand is for Zuma to resign voluntarily as president of the country.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  baleka mbete  |  cape town  |  politics  |  parliament 2017

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