South Africa's ANC threatens no-confidence vote on Zuma

Wednesday , February 14, 2018 - 4:15 AM

Krista Mahr

Special To The Washington Post.

JOHANNESBERG - Nearly 24 hours after announcing it had demanded President Jacob Zuma’s resignation, the African National Congress said it would oust him through a no-confidence vote if he didn’t resign Wednesday.

Following a meeting in Cape Town, party leaders said they would initiate the motion of no confidence on Thursday as pressure ratcheted up on South Africa’s once powerful president.

“The ball is in [Zuma’s] court,” said ANC Treasurer General Paul Mashatile at a briefing after the caucus. “We can’t wait. It’s not fair to South Africans, not fair to the ANC, not fair to anybody. Everything has come to a standstill. We need to be able to move.”

The ANC said Tuesday that its executive committee decided to recall Zuma “to provide certainty to the people of South Africa” amid social and economic challenges, and said it expected to hear back from Zuma the following day. By Wednesday afternoon, the president was still silent.

Though the party said that Zuma had done nothing wrong, many South Africans would disagree. Zuma’s popularity has plunged in recent years amid a volley of corruption allegations against him, high unemployment, and a sluggish economy.

For years, Zuma has outmaneuvered his detractors, and ANC parliamentarians have backed their leader in a series of votes to unseat him in parliament. But after being replaced as party leader by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in December, Zuma’s support has floundered, and by Wednesday morning, the president’s abrupt reversal of fortune was almost palpable.

Old allies that staunchly supported Zuma for years have also demanded Zuma step down. Early Wednesday, an elite police unit raided a Johannesburg compound belonging to the wealthy Gupta family who Zuma has been accused of colluding with. The raid was interpreted by some as a warning for Zuma to act soon.

Malusi Gigaba, who Zuma appointed as finance minister last year after firing the widely respected Pravin Gordhan, called for his longtime ally to “do the right thing” and step down on Wednesday.

“Should he refuse, we would then have to resort on a parliamentary process,” Gigaba told CNN, referring to a possible motion of no confidence against the president in parliament. “With a 62 percent majority and the support of the other opposition parties, we are certain to pass, but it’s not the direction that we would have wanted.”

Other party leaders were more direct.

If you disrespect and disobey the ANC, “we are going to let you be devoured by the vultures,” ANC National Chairperson Gwede Mantashe said on Tuesday, according to local news outlet eNCA.

In the flashy Johannesburg suburb of Saxonwold, heavily armed police and vehicles belonging to the Hawks, a special police unit, were pictured parked outside a compound belonging to the Guptas in the South African press.

Three suspects were arrested in the Hawks raid taking place at several locations in the Johannesburg area, according to a police statement. The arrests were in connection with an investigation into the alleged diversion of public funds earmarked for a farming program for the Gupta family’s personal use.

If Zuma steps down, Ramaphosa automatically becomes acting president according to South African law, and parliament must elect a new president in 30 days.

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