South Africa’s Zuma fac­ing se­cret vote

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A par­lia­men­tary vote of no con­fi­dence in South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma will be held by se­cret bal­lot, it was an­nounced yes­ter­day, a move that could en­cour­age some ANC law­mak­ers to vote to oust him. The vote, sched­uled for to­day, has be­come a test of African Na­tional Congress (ANC) unity as se­nior party fig­ures have been in­creas­ingly crit­i­cal of their leader, but it is un­likely to suc­ceed in top­pling Zuma. “Vot­ing on the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in the pres­i­dent... will be by se­cret bal­lot,” par­lia­men­tary Speaker Baleka Mbete an­nounced, in a de­ci­sion that took many an­a­lysts by sur­prise.

The pres­i­dent, who came to power in 2009, has been im­pli­cated in mul­ti­ple cor­rup­tion scan­dals, while the coun­try’s econ­omy has fallen into re­ces­sion and unem­ploy­ment has risen to record lev­els. The 75year-old is due to step down as head of the ANC in De­cem­ber, and as pres­i­dent be­fore the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion-less­en­ing pres­sure for his party to seek im­mi­nent change.

The vote has been sub­ject to a long le­gal bat­tle waged by op­po­si­tion par­ties, with the Con­sti­tu­tional Court rul­ing that a se­cret bal­lot was per­mis­si­ble. “It’s a sur­pris­ing but strate­gic move,” in­de­pen­dent an­a­lyst Ju­dith Fe­bru­ary told AFP. “Zuma is likely to re­main even if a few MPs vote against him. I would be very sur­prised if Zuma goes by this process. “The de­ci­sion takes the wind out of the sails of op­po­si­tion as well as civil so­ci­ety marches and ac­tivism around this is­sue.”

‘Lar­ceny on a grand scale’

Protests by pro- and anti-Zuma groups are planned in Cape Town, home of the South African par­lia­ment. The main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Al­liance party said the vote was “an op­por­tu­nity for us all to stand up to cor­rup­tion and get rid of Pres­i­dent Zuma and his cab­i­net.” A group of ANC vet­er­ans from the anti-apartheid strug­gle has also called for MPs to vote against Zuma, who was him­self im­pris­oned with Nel­son Man­dela on Robben Is­land un­der whitemi­nor­ity rule. South Africa is “wit­ness to lar­ceny on a grand scale, leav­ing the coun­try not only im­pov­er­ished, but also in­creas­ingly in the hands of crim­i­nal­ized and com­pro­mised gov­er­nance,” the vet­er­ans said in a state­ment be­fore Mbete’s an­nounce­ment.

“The mo­tion of no-con­fi­dence in Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma is an in­evitable out­come of the myr­iad scan­dals in which he has re­gret­tably em­broiled him­self and his of­fice,” they added. The ANC has fought back, say­ing last week it ex­pects its law­mak­ers to back the pres­i­dent. Party chief whip Jack­son Mthembu said oust­ing Zuma would “have dis­as­trous con­se­quences that can only have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the peo­ple of South Africa”. But he ac­knowl­edged re­cent crit­i­cism of the ANC, and the im­pact of a cab­i­net reshuf­fle in March when re­spected fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han was re­placed with a Zuma loy­al­ist. Gord­han’s sack­ing led to a string of down­grades to South Africa’s credit rat­ing as well as caus­ing the rand cur­rency to tum­ble. Pub­lic sup­port for the ANC, which swept to power un­der Man­dela in the first non-racial elec­tions in 1994, slipped to 55 per­cent in last year’s lo­cal polls — its worst-ever re­sult.

Min­is­ter sorry over night­club ‘as­sault’

Mean­while, a South African deputy min­is­ter yes­ter­day apol­o­gized af­ter he was ac­cused of kick­ing and punch­ing a woman at a night­club in north­ern Jo­han­nes­burg. Higher ed­u­ca­tion deputy min­is­ter Mduduzi Manana ad­mit­ted he was in­volved in the “shame­ful in­ci­dent”, say­ing that “re­gard­less of the ex­treme provo­ca­tion, I should have ex­er­cised re­straint”. —AFP

JO­HAN­NES­BURG: South Africa’s deputy pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa de­liv­ers a speech at a meet­ing of the South African Com­mu­nist Party. — AP

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