We have been here before: glued to our screens on the promise that Jacob Zuma is about to lose his job. Time and time again, he survives, and we’re left to rue our premature excitement. SONA 2018 may have just changed all that.
President Jacob Zuma could well be on the cusp of a recall. When you think about all his previous scandals, then it becomes apparent this is an incredibly tight spot for the President.
Does no SONA mean no Zuma?
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete stood on the steps of Parliament, and delivered a damaging announcement to Zuma’s bid for survival. Mbete revealed that the threat of disruptions led to her writing to the President asking him to postpone.
At the same time, Mbete said they were informed that President Zuma was already in the process of writing to her to request a postponement.
It seems today like the ANC are finally putting the final nail in the coffin of Count Zuma. Yes, he’s risen from the dead before – staying in a job against improbable odds – but now it seems his political career is six feet under. This judgement on SONA 2018 is something not even the Teflon one can recover from.
Will Jacob Zuma lose his job on Wednesday 7 February?
The ANC NEC cancelled a long-awaited and historic meeting that was to be held-today, in which the future of the President was to be discussed. Don’t be fooled by all the diplomatic language, here. They want Zuma out, and are pushing harder than ever before.
If Jacob Zuma had any long term future with as a leader, he needed to deliver SONA. It would have been a defiant statement of staying power, and a bruising PR defeat for Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to revitalise the ANC.
Will he resign?
Despite the very public lack of support from him in the government’s hierarchy, it is our view he still won’t go of his own accord. And the only way out from here will be a recall, which looks set to be confirmed this week.
In Mbete’s Cape Town Address, she effectively condemned JZ to the politcal wilderness. The Speaker seemingly suggested that SONA cannot happen whilst Zuma is the Head of State:
“The postponement will be no longer than one week. We need to consider the mood of the country, and only go ahead when we know we’ll have a very productive SONA.”
“We have been meeting with ANC stakeholders and participants since last Monday. We aren’t just looking at logistics, we’re listening to our political voices. We are continuing to interact with Cyril Ramaphosa on this, for when we talk about Parliament, we talk to this office.”
When will SONA 2018 take place?
Interestingly, Mbete said she’d expect to see SONA take place next week. So it would seem she feels Zuma hasn’t much, if any, time left. ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu also stuck the knife in, saying that the party “welcomes the decision made in Parliament”. He wouldn’t be drawn on when Zuma would face recall, though.
If this is Zexit eve, then it looks like he’s going down fighting. The certain indignity of a recall may just be the most fitting end to a Presidency swamped with problems.
Monday’s announcement by Baleka Mbete that the motion of no confidence would be decided by secret ballot took many, if not most, people by surprise.
Why did she decide on a secret ballot, when it clearly posed significant political risk to her if the ballot passed?
This question became even more intriguing when it emerged that she did not consult with the ANC NEC and that even they were caught by surprise.
Some analysts argued that the legal advice and opinions presented to her were so convincing that she did not have a choice. That might well be true, although it should be said that her political future would still have been more important to her than the possibility of losing in court again.
Some journalists went further and questioned whether she had gone “rogue” and whether this decision was not only her way of redeeming herself as a politician and thus securing her legacy, but also that the possibility of being interim president (should the motion have passed) might have been her way off kicking off her own presidential campaign.
I don’t think that this was convincing. First of all it posed an enormous risk for her in terms of her standing in the ANC should the vote have gone against President Zuma. We have to remember that a majority of NWC, NEC and arguably even branch members still support the Zuma faction. More importantly if Mbete was seen to have strengthened the hand of the opposition and so caused a victory to them, her standing in the ANC and in the Presidential race would have been fatally damaged. As much as there might be a growing discontent in the ANC about President Zuma, that does not translate into ANC members being comfortable with an opposition victory of any sort.
So what was going on?
I believe that President Zuma not only agreed to a secret ballot, but wanted it.
I find it implausible that Mbete (who is also Chairperson of the ANC) did not consult with Zuma before making her decision. Failure to do so would be strange in any political party, but given its culture of collective decision-making, much more so for the ANC. I also do not believe that Mbete would have gone directly against the president’s wishes unless it was agreed to by the NEC (which we know was not the case).
This leaves only one alternative and that is that President Zuma decided to take a calculated risk, i.e. that he argued “Bring it on”. This would be typical of him. He would have known that if he were to survive the motion through a secret ballot, it would be the ultimate victory for him, thus effectively silencing any opposition voices inside the ANC and also making any further votes of no-confidence highly unlikely in the next few months.
It would also explain why Mbete waited until the day before the debate to make the announcement. If indeed the president was in favour of a secret ballot, he would have requested or more likely instructed Baleka to only make it known the night before the vote in order to a) give the anti-Zuma faction as little time as possible to mobilise and b) to give the ANC the maximum time to “intimidate” or put pressure on their own members – as we have indeed seen happening in the last few weeks.
And of course the gamble paid off from Zuma’s perspective. Only 177 members voted against the motion. This does mean that 28 or 29 ANC members most likely voted with the opposition and 9 abstained. Although significantly more than most people anticipated, it is a long way from the 201 votes that would have been required to pass the motion.
I have always maintained that if Mbete ruled for a secret ballot it would signal that she and the ANC were sure that the motion would not pass. I was right. I also warned that as a country we could be worse off after a vote of no confidence and I think we are.
President Zuma got what he wanted, courtesy of the opposition parties. After this vote he is stronger than ever before, no matter how hard the opposition will try and spin the fact that many ANC MPs voted for the motion. The outcome of the vote has effectively silenced any opposition to Zuma in the ANC at least until December. And it might even have for now strengthened his hand in terms of the outcome of the Electoral Conference.
The motion of no confidence was without doubt spectacular political theatre. Sadly, however, now that the curtain has fallen, South Africa is probably worse off than before.
The Constitutional Court will make its ruling on Thursday on the UDM’s application to force National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to conduct the vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma by secret ballot.
After Zuma’s controversial Cabinet reshuffle at the end of March, that saw Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan axed, among others, the opposition asked Mbete to schedule a vote of no confidence in Zuma.
It was initially set down for April 18. The opposition however asked for it to be postponed pending the application to the court for the vote to take place in secret.
Opposition parties hope this would encourage enough ANC MPs to vote against Zuma for it to succeed.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa had argued that Zuma’s reshuffle led to two ratings agencies downgrading the country’s debt to junk status. In addition, he said MPs had been threatened with losing their seats and with violence if they voted against him.
Mbete previously said the UDM’s application had no merit and it did not fall within the court’s exclusive jurisdiction.
She said if the court found she had the power to order a motion of no confidence via secret ballot, she would act in accordance with its ruling.
Markets have reacted to events at the African National Congress National Executive Committee meeting in Johannesburg over the weekend.
The rand gained considerable strength when news emerged that a vote of no confidence had been tabled.
But it quickly retreated when the motion failed.
Economist Dawie Roodt says the rand is inextricably linked with President Jacob Zuma’s fate.
“It is interesting to watch financial markets because quite often, one can actually see how Jacob Zuma is doing by simply watching the exchange rate of the country.
“What has happened though over the weekend, as soon as it became clear that there would be a debate on the future of Zuma, the rand actually appreciates very strongly against most other currencies.”
Meanwhile, Zuma has come out swinging following the failure of a motion of no confidence in him.
The motion was tabled at the ANC NEC meeting over the weekend.
It failed to garner the necessary support to carry.
Zuma attacked his critics in the NEC in his closing address, saying he knows those who want him to step down are pushing an agenda of foreign forces and he’s warned them to stop.
Three sources in the ANC NEC have told Eyewitness News that Zuma was hard-hitting and furious when he gave his closing remarks at the NEC meeting, responding to those who called on him to step down.
It is understood that the president told the NEC meeting that those who wanted him to resign are pushing an agenda of foreign forces.
The sources say the furious president told the meeting that he was poisoned with the intention of being killed and warned that he knows who is plotting against him and where they get the money from.
It’s understood he also told the meeting that he can’t be blamed for the party’s loss of key metros, saying it was the ANC’s failure to manage regional dynamics that resulted in the poor showing at last year’s polls.