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Zuma, Guptas live to loot another day – but ANC is terminally ill: Analysts

President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa.

EDINBURGH — Many South Africans were sickened upon hearing that corrupt President Jacob Zuma survived yet another vote of no confidence in Parliament. The president barely conceals his links with the immigrant Gupta family, believed to have sucked a staggering R100bn out of state entities and widely known to pull the levers of political power. News has emerged daily in recent months of transactions that link the Gupta brothers to corrupt politicians, with the flow of money from lucrative state deals ending as close as the President’s wife, Bongi Ngema-Zuma, and some of his sons. Analysts in South Africa and elsewhere believe Zuma might have won this round, but the real loser is the ANC. – Jackie Cameron

By Paul Vecchiatto, Amogelang Mbatha and Mike Cohen

South African President Jacob Zuma narrowly overcame a bid by opposition parties to topple him through a no-confidence motion in parliament. The real loser may be his own party, the African National Congress.

Ruling party lawmakers rallied round Zuma, a 75-year-old former intelligence operative who’s been implicated in a series of scandals, to defeat the motion by 198 votes to 177. With support for the ANC waning as a result of Zuma’s misrule before elections in 2019, it’s a decision they may rue, according to Daniel Silke, director of Political Futures Consultancy in Cape Town.

“Zuma is a great political survivor, but this was a weaker-than-expected victory that will do nothing to stem the deep political malaise in which the ANC finds itself,” Silke said by phone. “The vote does not change the highly charged atmosphere that exists in the country and within the ANC.”

Zuma
Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, lives to fight another day after yet another vote of no confidence against him failed. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Under the stewardship of Zuma, who’s led the ANC since 2007 and the country since May 2009, South Africa has slipped into recession, lost its investment-grade credit rating and seen its unemployment rate reach a 14-year high. He’s clung to power because he continues to enjoy the backing of most of the ANC’s top leaders, who rely on him for their cabinet posts and government jobs.

The outcome of the vote weighed on the markets, with the rand slumping as much as 1.5 percent against the dollar after the vote outcome was announced. The currency edged lower to 13.4102 per dollar at 7:33 a.m. on Wednesday in Johannesburg. Banks stocks had rallied on the expectation that Zuma would be ousted. It’s a public holiday in South Africa, and trading will resume on Thursday.

While the ANC has admitted that Zuma has divided the party — more than two dozen of its lawmakers voted in favor of the resolution to topple him — it insists it will resolve its differences internally. The ANC is due to choose a new leader in December, who will also be its presidential candidate in 2019.

“Zuma has been able to cling on by his fingernails, simply because the party prefers to put off the day of reckoning,” said Nicholas Spiro, a partner at London-based Lauressa Advisory Ltd., which advises asset managers. “These are the death throes of the ANC.”

Taxpayer Funds

Zuma has been dogged by controversy. South Africa’s top court ruled last year that he broke his oath of office when he refused to repay taxpayer funds spent on his private home. A report by the Public Protector in November said Zuma and some ministers may have breached the government’s code of ethics in their relationship with the Gupta family, who are in business with Zuma’s son. Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.

The scandals have opened fissures in the ruling party. Senior officials, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, have spoken out against deepening corruption and the undue influence of private business interests over government institutions, known as “state capture.”

“That our own MPs voted for the motion worries us,” Jackson Mthembu, the ANC’s chief whip in parliament, said in an interview. “It means we must deal with a lot of internal issues including the allegations of state capture and corruption.”

The ANC’s succession race is likely to limit the ANC’s ability to address its shortcomings and heal its internal divisions. Zuma’s favored successor is his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former head of the African Union Commission. Her election could allow him to continue to wield significant influence over the party after he steps down.

Electoral Losses

A victory by Ramaphosa, the other frontrunner for the top post, may spark a renewed effort to remove Zuma as president.

Disgruntlement with Zuma’s leadership contributed to the party’s worst-ever electoral performance in a municipal vote in August last year and several of its senior leaders have warned that it’s in danger of losing its overall majority in 2019 elections.

Zakhele Ndlovu, a political science lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said that while Zuma may be emboldened by surviving the no-confidence vote and gain additional sway over who succeeds him in December, the ANC had little to gain by backing him.

“It could still cost the ANC the votes of those people who feel that Zuma has done too much damage to the South African economy,” he said. “The opposition could try to exploit this and use it against the ANC to say the party is not serious about fighting corruption.”

From Save South Africa:

 Jacob Zuma lives to loot another day – for now

Today clearly marks the beginning of the end for the worst South African president in post-apartheid history.

Jacob Zuma may have survived his eighth parliamentary vote of no confidence, and lived to loot another day – but he only made it by the skin of his teeth, and he’s now living on borrowed time.

And it would be foolhardy for anyone to think of this is a victory for Zuma. It is nothing more than survival – by the narrowest of margins.

The fact that so many ANC MPs voted against their own president only confirms that the cracks are growing by the day inside the ANC and what remains of its Alliance, and that Zuma’s ‘popularity’ is at an all-time low.

Even someone as dismissive of public opinion as Zuma cannot ignore the fact that a significant number of his own party’s MPs no longer want him as their leader. They showed that in the run-up to the vote, when they spoke publicly about his destructive leadership, and again when they entered the ballot box to vote against him in the National Assembly this afternoon, in defiance of intimidation and threats from party bosses.

Save South Africa salutes the many brave ANC MPs who put their country first!

It is also clear from the growing number of protests, rallies and marches around the country – including today, with rallies and protests across the country — that the people of South Africa are sick and tired of Zuma’s presidency, and that they want him out.

We are more inspired than ever to get Zuma out of office, to stop state capture, and to reclaim our country. And we call on all South Africans to join us in the next, final wave of struggle to isolate Zuma even further and ensure that he is recalled by his own party — sooner rather than later.

Today, because of Zuma, many ANC MPs still put party and president before country. From tomorrow, they need to think long and hard about the future.

The performance in Parliament by ANC MPs will have done nothing to reassure South Africans that the ANC has their best interests at heart. Rather than heeding the voice of the people, the ANC is reverting to war-talk and references to coup-de-tats and “regime change”. This is deeply concerning to all who care about democracy, and indicates a party that is increasingly disrespectful of the Constitution that it helped to shape, and the people it professes to serve.

It is indicative of a party that is, because of Zuma, increasingly on the back-foot and has no plan for the future.

This attitude, on top of Zuma’s own gross misconduct as President, does not bode well for our democracy in the short term. But we must not allow the anti-democratic forces to carry on selling our sovereignty, disregarding our Constitution and stealing our money – or bullying those who dare to criticize them.

As Save South Africa, we appreciate the massive support that has already been shown by people across all sectors of society for the fight against state capture. We would not be where we are today without you.

We will be broadening our consultation with civil society organisations and other interested parties over the next few days, in partnership with FutureSA, to ensure that we continue to build the broad front against state capture and reclaim our democracy – for the sake of our children, and our children’s children.

And we will not rest until Zuma is gone – preferably, to prison.

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