Zuma tells MPs to vote against motion, or else
President Jacob Zuma warned ANC MPs against voting with the DA during a heated parliamentary caucus meeting on Thursday – a move that has been interpreted by some in Parliament as a sign of panic, as the president rarely attends caucus meetings.
Zuma allegedly told ANC MPs it would not make sense for them “to come to Parliament on a party ticket and then turn around to vote with another party”.
Two MPs told City Press that Zuma explained the comments he made during a celebration rally in eDumbe in KwaZulu Natal last Saturday. He told the caucus that he wanted to clarify the statement that he was not afraid to go to jail and put it into context.
Zuma allegedly said his opponents had been using jail to intimidate him. According to one MP, he argued that he was not going to sit back and allow people to keep throwing the “jail talk” at him.
The DA motion came at a time when a number of ANC members – active ones and stalwarts – were calling for Zuma’s head, saying the president was failing the party and the country.
Electronic messages purporting to be from an ANC faction opposed to Zuma – and detailing how the grouping would vote with the DA – were doing the rounds on Thursday morning.
This led to a deployment of intelligence operatives around the precinct, and claims that they were deployed to keep an eye on those ANC members seen as being anti-Zuma.
This is according to four ANC MPs, who participated in quashing the DA’s motion of no confidence in Zuma in the National Assembly on Thursday. That rowdy event was preceded by the president’s unusual attendance at the ANC caucus meeting earlier that day. MPs described Thursday’s meeting as “robust and heated”, adding: “It was made clear to Zuma that we were going to defend the ANC – but not him – because it is time the organisation had its moment of introspection and self-correction.”
Among those mentioned as having warned ANC MPs against showing uncritical support for Zuma were the SA Communist Party’s first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin, ANC national executive committee member Phil Mapulane, and former mayor of Ekurhuleni Mondli Gungubele. Mapulane allegedly told the meeting that they could not, and would never, vote with the DA – but that did not mean the ANC should not deal with the concerns about its president.
Those who spoke out against Zuma allegedly said they were unhappy with how things were in the ANC, and proposed an internal platform for the party to deal with the issues.
International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Water Affairs and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and State Security Minister David Mahlobo are said to have come to Zuma’s defence as he sat quietly listening.
Nkoana-Mashabane allegedly argued that it was unfair to single out the Guptas in the so-called state capture debate, saying other powerful families such as the Ruperts and the Oppenheimers should be included.
According to sources, this argument was countered, with Mapulane saying it was wrong to insinuate that because the Guptas were black or Indian, they must not be dealt with.
Mapulane refused to comment, saying he did not discuss ANC matters in the media.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s recommendation for a judicial inquiry to further investigate state capture also found support among the anti-Zuma MPs. They agreed that Zuma could not be expected to select the judge for the inquiry because “there is conflict of interest”.
The opposing group argued that, constitutionally, the power to appoint the head of the judicial inquiry rested with Zuma.
“They do not appreciate the context that the man cannot be the referee and the player at the same time,” said an ANC MP.
A parliamentary insider said that intelligence services were brought in because of the paranoia triggered by information of a secret agreement reached between some ANC MPs to possibly vote with the DA.
“They did beef up the intelligence team. There is the intelligence deployed in Parliament for state security, but yes, it was beefed up because they were panicking, only to find that there was nothing,” said the source.
Moloto Mothapo, the spokesperson for the ANC caucus, suggested there was nothing unusual about Zuma’s presence at Thursday’s caucus meeting, saying the president was a member of caucus and attended its meetings regularly when he was in the country.
Mothapo confirmed that the ANC had called a three-line whip on Thursday – Parliament jargon for compulsory attendance and an instruction to vote in a particular manner.
“However, even with compulsory attendance, there would be critical or dire cases compelling the chief whip to grant an MP leave of absence. Similarly, there could be a last-minute emergency that could force someone who had not given prior request for leave not to attend.”
Yet despite the ANC calling for a three-line whip, 33 of its MPs did not attend the session.
According to parliamentary papers, 58 MPs did not vote and City Press counted 33 ANC MPs’ names among them – including Zukisa Faku, who was removed from her seat in September, after being sentenced to three years’ house arrest for fraud.
Among senior ANC MPs who did not attend the sitting and did not vote were Gordhan, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha and former ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga, who recently spoke out against the president.
Some of Zuma’s staunch supporters, such as Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Kebby Maphatsoe, were also absent.