Following the breakdown of negotiations to ease out the scandal-hit Jacob Zuma from office, the African National Congress, ANC, said it is preparing to hold a vote of no confidence on the president on Thursday and with its parliamentary majority elect Cyril Ramaphosa as president same day, signalling its determination to remove Zuma quickly.
On Tuesday, the National Executive Committee of the party informed president Zuma on its decision to recall him saying the recall needed to be “treated with urgency”. Although Zuma wasn’t given a deadline, he was expected to respond on Wednesday. However, the office of the president said there was no scheduled presidential speech on Wednesday, signalling Zuma had no intention of resigning, forcing the ANC to schedule the no confidence vote.
“For us, as the ANC leadership, we can no longer wait beyond today,” ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile told reporters on Wednesday.
“We have now asked the chief whip to proceed with the motion of no confidence tomorrow in parliament… so that President Zuma is then removed,” he continued.
Rationalising the no confidence vote, Mashatile said:
“We don’t want to keep South Africa waiting. If President Zuma at some point will respond he will respond, but we can’t continue waiting. The decision has been taken and must be implemented.”
It showed Zuma had finally lost the struggle for power with the new party leader, 65 year old Cyril Ramaphosa.
More importantly, the party desperately wants a quick transition from the scandal-hit regime of Zuma to allow Ramaphosa to quickly implement the promised reforms of reviving the struggling economy, tackle corruption and rebuild the party image ahead of elections in 2019 so as not to harm the party’s chances.
However, speaking after the party announced it will proceed with a no-confidence vote, Zuma has come out to say he’s done nothing wrong and sees no reason to stand down.
“It was very unfair to me that this issue is raised…Nobody has ever provided the reasons. Nobody is saying what I have done”, Zuma told the national broadcaster SABC during a lengthy unannounced interview.
This appeared to be a hardening of his stance because in earlier discussions, he had proposed to leave within three to six months.
Zuma was careful to stress that he wasn’t defying the ANC but he has a problem with the way the recall is being pursued.
“There is such a rush. In the latter that is written to me, one line towards the end says engagement is open…In my response that I was going to be doing, I also said I was open to further discussions. But they are rushing. By tomorrow they are taking a decision in parliament that there’s going to be a vote of no confidence. Nobody has come to me to say ‘we’re moving if you don’t move.’ What is the rush? I have been asking this question all of the time, Zuma told the SABC interviewer.
In a past interview, Zuma had categorically ruled out the option of resigning from the presidency, which, according to him, is what white monopoly capital wanted.
Analysts however believe Zuma’s hesitancy or unwillingness to leave was due to his concern about his future – the payment of his legal fees after leaving office and security for him and his family.
“The primary concern of Mr Zuma is likely how to avoid going to jail, says Rafiq Raji, political economist and Chief Economist of Macroafricaintel Investment LLC.
Meanwhile the markets have reacted positively to the news of Zuma’s imminent removal. The rand went up 1.3 percent to 11.8159 per dollar earlier in the day in Johannesburg, its strongest in almost three years. Yields on government bonds also fell eight basis points to 8.37 percent.
In another related development, the police on Wednesday raided the home of the controversial Gupta family linked with Zuma and business partners with his son Duduzane. Officials say three persons were arrested in connection with the Vrede farm investigation.
The diary farm in Vrede, in the Free State, is a project originally meant to help poor black farmers but from which the Gupta’s criminally pocketed millions of dollars. The family has been accused of wielding powerful interest in state appointments and businesses in what is being referred to as state capture. Both Zuma and the family denied the claims.