Zuma survives impeachment vote in South Africa

Motion to remove president from office defeated as ANC MPs rally to leader’s side

 A member of the oppostion party Economic Freedom Fighters reacts during a debate over the removal of the president in parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, on Tuesday. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

A member of the oppostion party Economic Freedom Fighters reacts during a debate over the removal of the president in parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, on Tuesday. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

 

A move by opposition parties to have South African president Jacob Zuma impeached following a constitutional court ruling against him was easily defeated on Tuesday in parliament, where the ruling party holds a large majority.

In order for the motion to remove Mr Zuma from office – for not upholding the constitution – to be successful in the National Assembly, at least 267 of the 400 lower house members had to vote in its favour.

The African National Congress, Mr Zuma’s party, has 249 MPs in parliament, and more than 100 of them would have had to vote against their own party’s position on the matter for the motion to have been carried.

All of parliament’s opposition parties united behind the motion and called on ANC MPs to join them and “do the right thing”, but in the end the ruling party threw a protective ring around their leader.

After hours of heated debate, in which Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema unsuccessfully tried to have the speaker of the house, Baleka Mbete, recused from the process, the motion was defeated by 233 votes to 143.

Last week South Africa’s constitutional court ruled that Mr Zuma failed to uphold the constitution when he did not comply with the remedial action a corruption watchdog recommended after her investigation into construction work done to his rural Nkandla home.

Public protector Thuli Madonsela’s investigation into the €14 million upgrades completed on Mr Zuma’s palatial compound found that the president and his family had “unduly benefited” from the taxpayers’ money spent on the non-security-related upgrades.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) immediately set in motion the process of trying to remove the president from office under section 89 of the constitution. If the motion was successful he would not be entitled to a pension, benefits linked to the office, and could never work for government again.

Ahead of the impeachment vote, the DA said it expected ANC members of parliament to follow the party line – which is that Mr Zuma made an honest mistake –and keep their leader in the country’s top job.

During the debate DA leader Musi Maimane continued to chastise the ruling party MPs, saying the ANC’s vital signs were not looking good. They would show South Africans their true character by choosing to defend a “crooked and broken president”, he said.

On Monday, the ANC described the DA’s motion to have the president impeached as an electioneering tactic, in reference to the fast-approaching local elections, which legally have to take place before August 18th next.

Despite Mr Zuma’s success in parliament more party stalwarts are speaking out against him. Former finance minister Trevor Manuel, who served in the position for 10 years, is the latest to call for Mr Zuma’s resignation, calling his actions a “deep crisis”.

“The violation of the key oath of office of the head of state, which I think is a deep crisis. I think it’s in all of our interests that the president actually steps aside,” he said in an interview with Soweto TV aired last night.