ANC decides not to force president Jacob Zuma from office

Scandal-hit South African leader will not be head of the party by time of 2019 elections

South African president Jacob Zuma  has survived a vote of no confidence. Photograph: Nic Bothma/AFP Photo/Getty Images

South African president Jacob Zuma has survived a vote of no confidence. Photograph: Nic Bothma/AFP Photo/Getty Images

 

The African National Congress’s national executive committee (NEC) has decided to stand by South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma after calls from some of its 104 members to force him from office.

At a press conference on Tuesday, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the party’s top decision-making body had decided it was more important to work towards unity in the organisation than to recall Mr Zuma.

“Following robust, honest, candid and at times difficult discussions, the [ANC executive committee] did not support the call for the president to step down,” Mr Mantashe, told reporters.

However, the scandal-hit Mr Zuma did not emerge unscathed from the process that began at the NEC meeting held near Pretoria over the weekend and ran into Monday night.

While he is unable to stand for another term in office as South Africa’s president when his second one ends in 2019, Mr Zuma is eligible to seek a third term as ANC president at its elective conference in late 2017.

But Mr Mantashe told reporters that the former liberation movement would have a new president to lead it into the 2019 general elections.

In addition, NEC members agreed that the ANC will dedicate two days of its policy conference next June to a consultative process that will assess the state of the movement.

Motion of no confidence

According to newspaper reports, tourism minister Derek Hanekom was the NEC member who tabled the motion of no confidence against Mr Zuma. A secret ballot on the matter was also proposed by those who backed it.

City Press newspaper stated that those who supported the motion included health minister Aaron Motsoaledi, his deputy Joe Phaahla, rural development deputy minister Mcebisi Skwatsha and public works minister Thulas Nxesi.

Mr Zuma’s popularity within the ANC has begun to decline over the past year because of a string of corruption and economic mismanagement allegations levelled against him.

Most recently a report compiled by former public protector Thuli Madonsela questioned his links with the wealthy Gupta family, who are accused of using their relationship with him to illegal secure state tenders and influence government appointments.

Because of the seriousness of the no-confidence motion, every member of the NEC was allowed to give their view on the matter.

Those who came to Mr Zuma’s defence during the debate included ministers Nathi Mthethwa, Fikile Mbalula and Malusi Gigaba.

Zuma’s defence

Mr Zuma also spoke at the meeting. And one NEC member recounted to news24 website that “the president told us that he will never step down, as it would be like handing himself over to the enemy, and that there are people who want to see him in jail and they will never stop”.

Mr Mantashe said that a vote on the motion had not taken place, as that was not how the party did things. Instead, he said, the NEC agreed to debate the issue in an attempt to get members to reach a consensus that would lead to a collective decision.

A cabinet reshuffle has been suggested as one way Mr Zuma could deal with his lieutenants who tried to oust him. But Mantashe denied such an action would materialise, saying it would “deprive the ANC of the views of its own members”.

Maybe sensing that the tide in the ANC was turning against Mr Zuma, opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters yesterday applied to parliament for another vote of no confidence in Mr Zuma to take place.

The ruling party holds 249 of the 400 seats in the lower house, so just 52 ANC MPs would have to vote with the opposition MPs for the motion, if it is accepted, to be passed.