By MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – SOUTH Africa is misjudging the risk of a successful “vote of no confidence” against President Jacob Zuma, a leading markets watcher stated ahead of the vote on Tuesday.
Zuma, the country’s fourth democratically-elected leader, is facing perhaps the biggest challenge to his reign with legislators set to vote in a secret ballot.
For the vote to succeed, 201 Members of Parliament (MPs) must vote for the motion, which is possible if 50 or more of the 250 ANC MPs vote with the 150 opposition MPs.
Market watcher, Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) Global Markets, ahead of the vote said “it will not be a surprise” if the vote fails due to MPs voting by party line, and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has spoken against party legislators who indicated their willingness to vote for the motion.
“The risk we think is underestimated is if the vote succeeds and parliament fails to elect a new president within 30 days,” said analyst Isaiah Mhlanga.
That would open the possibility for fresh general elections, which RMB did not think none of the opposition, the ruling party, the Independent Electoral Commission and the country was prepared for.
“In such a scenario, US$/Rand will likely rally if the motion succeeds but
the uncertainty that may come after that could weaken the currency again.”
The rand rallied to under R13,20 (from 13,38) to the dollar after Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete announced that the vote of no confidence a will be done by secret ballot.
Mbete is also ANC chairperson and former Deputy President (2008-09) when Thabo Mbeki was forced out of office.
Media reports suggested if she did not allow a secret ballot, opposition parties were to take her to court as an open vote did not protect MPs from intimidation.
Some MPs from within Zuma’s party are among other public officials calling on Zuma to resign.
Mmusi Maimane, leader of the official opposition Democratic Alliance, said ANC legislators “now have no excuse” and must use their vote to “stand up
to grand corruption and vote to remove Jacob Zuma as President.”
“While the removal of Jacob Zuma will not solve every problem in our nation, it would be the beginning of a national rebuilding project that is urgently required. The DA’s vote will be no secret – we will vote to fire Jacob Zuma.”
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) an offshoot of Zuma’s party, also urged ANC MPs “to follow in the inspiring example of the Speaker of the National Assembly, their Chairperson, Baleka Mbete, and use their consciences to remove a man who has lost his conscience.”
“We are calling on the removal of one individual who has broken his oath of office, Jacob Zuma. Democracy means we must be able to move beyond a single individual; we must move beyond him because by undermining the constitution, he has lost the worth to lead the highest public office in the land,” spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said.
Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement, was hopeful members of the National Assembly would “put South Africa first” and vote in favour of the motion against “an irredeemably compromised President.”
The vote of no confidence is the aftermath of recent controversies to trail Zuma, the most recent a cabinet reshuffle in March, which culminated in the downgrading of the country’s credit rating to junk. The alleged influence the controversial Gupta family wields on his cabinet has exacerbated matters.
Zuma’s ANC, in power since Nelson Mandela was elected at the advent of democracy in 1994 but seeing its dominance recede lately, is also beset by internecine strife over his successor.
A successor is to be chosen in December. His former wife and former African Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and current South Africa and ANC Vice President, Cyril Ramaphosa, are frontrunners.
Elected as party leader in 2007 and as head of Africa’s most advanced economy by parliament in 2009 and retained in 2014, Zuma, a son of a policeman and a domestic worker, is a survivor of note.
Hence it would not be a surprise if he emerges unscathed after the vote of no confidence.
A proverbial cat with nine lives, he was charged with rape in 2005, but was acquitted.
The 75-year-old has also fought a long legal battle over allegations of racketeering and corruption.
In 2016, he survived an impeachment attempt in the National Assembly after the Constitutional Court ruled he failed to uphold the country’s constitution following extensive state-funded upgrades to his rural homestead at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.
“Accordingly, we have no doubt that this frivolous motion, which has been hyped up by opposition parties as some sort of Damascus moment, will fail like many before it,” ANC stated.
South Africa misjudge threat of impeachning Zuma’
By MTHULISI SIBANDA