S Africa’s Pres­i­dent fac­ing cru­cial no con­fi­dence vote

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s par­lia­ment was vot­ing yes­ter­day on a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in em­bat­tled Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma that could force him to re­sign af­ter months of grow­ing anger over al­leged cor­rup­tion. Zuma has sur­vived six pre­vi­ous at­tempts to un­seat him in par­lia­ment, but this is the first to be held by se­cret bal­lot af­ter par­lia­men­tary speaker Baleka Mbete on Mon­day made the sur­prise de­ci­sion to al­low it. Op­po­si­tion par­ties hope it will en­cour­age dis­grun­tled leg­is­la­tors with the rul­ing African Na­tional Congress party to vote against Zuma, who has faced nu­mer­ous al­le­ga­tions of graft while South Africa’s econ­omy has fallen into re­ces­sion.

“Take our coun­try back,” the head of the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Al­liance party, Mmusi Maimane, urged law­mak­ers. “This is a his­toric day. In­deed, since the dawn of our democ­racy the stakes have never been higher.” Wide­spread frus­tra­tion over Zuma has hurt the ANC, the for­mer lib­er­a­tion move­ment that has led South Africa since the end of white mi­nor­ity rule and the first all-race elec­tions in 1994.

Yes­ter­day, for­mer Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki said ANC law­mak­ers must ask them­selves if they have con­fi­dence in Zuma when they go to vote, ac­cord­ing to a video posted by a Nairobi-based jour­nal­ist on Twit­ter. “Those MPs must re­call that they are the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple, and must there­fore rep­re­sent the peo­ple in terms of what they do this af­ter­noon,” Mbeki told re­porters. The ANC holds a ma­jor­ity of the 400 par­lia­ment seats, and the party has re­peat­edly said its mem­bers will not sup­port the op­po­si­tion-led at­tempt to un­seat the pres­i­dent. The party has 249 par­lia­men­tary seats, five of which are cur­rently va­cant, said a party spokes­woman, Non­ceba Mh­lauli.

The no-con­fi­dence mo­tion needs 201 votes to suc­ceed. The draft of the mo­tion sub­mit­ted by the Demo­cratic Al­liance ac­cuses Zuma of “derelict lead­er­ship” and says the pres­i­dent has “lost all sense of ra­tio­nal­ity and sound judg­ment,” harm­ing the coun­try’s econ­omy and its poor­est cit­i­zens. Demon­stra­tions both for and against Zuma, who has led South Africa since 2009, were tak­ing place in front of the par­lia­ment build­ing in Cape Town be­fore the muchan­tic­i­pated vote.

‘Get rid of this man’

“As you can see, thou­sands of peo­ple have reached the end of their tether in terms of what is hap­pen­ing in our beau­ti­ful coun­try, our beau­ti­ful, di­verse coun­try that we should en­joy but we can’t en­joy be­cause mil­lions of our peo­ple are with­out jobs,” said one pro­tester, John­nie Ja­cobs. “We have got to get rid of this man be­fore he de­stroys ev­ery­thing that we have all worked so hard for,” said an­other pro­tester, Anne Shirley.

If the mo­tion suc­ceeds, Zuma and his Cab­i­net must re­sign im­me­di­ately and Mbete will take over as act­ing pres­i­dent, ac­cord­ing to Pierre de Vos, a con­sti­tu­tional ex­pert and law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cape Town. The rest of the ad­min­is­tra­tion would con­tinue its work for an in­terim pe­riod of up to 30 days un­til the coun­try’s chief jus­tice con­venes a spe­cial par­lia­ment ses­sion to elect a new pres­i­dent.

If the ANC can­not agree on a can­di­date in that time, new na­tional elec­tions would be held. A sim­i­lar re­place­ment process kicked into gear af­ter the ANC re­called Mbeki in 2008. The rep­u­ta­tion of Zuma, who spent a decade in prison for his an­ti­a­partheid ac­tiv­i­ties and has been pop­u­lar among some South Africans for his per­sonal warmth and pop­ulist poli­cies, has been tar­nished by al­le­ga­tions of im­pro­pri­ety.

Last year, the Con­sti­tu­tional Court ruled unan­i­mously that Zuma “failed to uphold” the con­sti­tu­tion by not pay­ing back some of the $20 mil­lion-plus in state money used to up­grade his ru­ral home. Zuma’s ties to the Gupta fam­ily, im­mi­grant busi­ness­men ac­cused of try­ing to ma­nip­u­late gov­ern­ment lead­ers and state com­pa­nies for fi­nan­cial gain, also have stirred pub­lic anger.

The pres­i­dent’s fir­ing of widely re­spected fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han in a Cab­i­net reshuf­fle in March led two agen­cies, Fitch and Stan­dard & Poor’s, to lower South Africa’s credit rat­ing to be­low in­vest­ment grade, or junk sta­tus. While Zuma’s term con­tin­ues un­til elec­tions in 2019, there have been calls from within the ANC for him to quit ear­lier and al­low the party to shore up sup­port be­fore the vote. The rul­ing party is ex­pected to re­place Zuma as ANC pres­i­dent at a meeting in De­cem­ber. — AP

CAPE TOWN: Protesters against Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, march to par­lia­ment yes­ter­day. — AP

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