Yesterday, a motion of no certainty brought by the Democratic Alliance (DA) against President Jacob Zuma flopped in the National Assemblyy after an irritable civil argument enduring almost two hours.
Zuma, who has faced mounting criticism from within the ANC, came under further pressure last week after a corruption probe raised fresh allegations of misconduct.
But the ANC’s parliamentary majority delivered a resounding signal of support as 214 lawmakers voted against the motion and 126 voted in favour‚ with 58 MPs not voting.
Zuma’s victory was expected, despite Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the DA, appealing to ANC members to vote against their leader.
“To put it plainly, we can choose Jacob Zuma, or we can choose South Africa,” Maimane told parliament during a fiery debate.
“Many of you have been speaking out against him in recent weeks… I know that there are men and women in these ANC benches who want to do the right thing.”
Before the debate could even begin‚ the sitting descended into a heated verbal sparring match between EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu and ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu over whether the ballot could be held in secret.
Shivambu called for a secret ballot to be held to avoid any potential victimisation of ANC members who did not vote along party lines. He was promptly told to take his seat because there was no provision in the rules allowing a secret vote.
What followed were heckling‚ insults and several interruptions as the argument continued. “Why are you afraid of the secret ballot‚” shouted somebody. Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli had his hands full trying to restore order as his requests were ignored.
An irritated IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi stood up and asked‚ in disbelief‚ why the deputy speaker was allowing such chaos.
While the dispute went back and forth‚ pro-Zuma supporters gathered outside parliament where they were handed ANC t-shirts and boxes of KFC meals.
The no-confidence vote was the third in under a year, with the first two also defeated by wide margins.
The ‘State of Capture’ report accusations of possible criminal activity in Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas, a business family accused of wielding undue political influence.
It included allegations that the Guptas offered Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas a $44 million (40 million euros) bribe, which he said he refused.
Increasing numbers of anti-apartheid veterans, ANC activists, trade unions, civil groups and business leaders have called for Zuma to resign in recent months.
In Thursday’s debate, the ANC attacked Maimane, for bringing the non-confidence vote.
“The motion (is) using a black face to protect the interest of the white minority,” said ANC minister Nomvula Mokonyane.
“They are trying hard to distract the ANC… from dealing with the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.”
The Constitutional Court this year found the president guilty of violating the constitution after he refused to repay taxpayers’ money used to refurbish his Nkandla home.
He is also fighting a court order that could reinstate almost 800 corruption charges against him over a multi-billion dollar arms deal in the 1990s.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party used the debate to tell the ANC it should have “found it in its own conscience to act against Jacob Zuma”.
“He is going to arrest you, to lock you up, to kill you, because… he knows that if he doesn’t have control of political power he is going to go to prison,” said EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu.
United Democratic Movement Bantu Holomisa lashed at ANC MPs for supporting a corrupt leader like Zuma‚ even describing them as wolves.
“Here they are bumping on their seats like popcorn‚” Holomisa said‚ ending with a strong IsiXhosa reference to ANC MPs.
“Ningxola nje masela ndini‚ uyahamba uZuma. Niyathanda anithandi.” Loosely translated “You are making noise for nothing. Zuma is going whether you like it or not.”
The ANC didn’t take this lying down. Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said the DA’s motion was a desperate attempt by the opposition party and its allies to “undermine the will of the people… in a quest…to gain power by other means other than the ballot”.
“The ANC accepted the will of the people and to date the DA and allies are presiding over some municipalities that were led by ANC… They are trying hard to distract the ANC and government led by President Zuma from dealing with poverty‚ unemployment and inequality‚” said Mokonyane.
Despite the groundswell of protest and deep divisions in the ANC, Wits University professor Patrick Bond said Zuma remained secure in his position for now.
“The key people in the ANC are very supportive of Zuma,” he said.
When Zuma leaves office, the three leading possible successors are his ex-wife African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize.