The Future for President Zuma and the ANC – Political Summary and Travel Advice
9 Aug 2017
The decision to conduct a secret ballot on the vote of no confidence on President Zuma is an unprecedented move for South Africa’s relatively young constitution. After much debate and decision-making between parliament and the supreme court, it was eventually deemed constitutional for the National Assembly Speaker to decide whether to allow a secret ballot to be held on this issue. After two hours of debate, the vote was conducted and the result was concluded as “negative”; the motion did not pass. Votes against the motion were totalled at 198, whilst the opposition were able to obtain 177 in favour of it.
- The National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, announced a secret ballot for the motion of no confidence in President Zuma would be held.
- President Zuma survived the motion of no confidence by 198 votes against, 177 for, and nine abstentions.
- The ANC Conference, due to be held in December 2017, will elect a new party leader, and potentially the new presidential candidate for the general election in 2019.
Political: The decision to conduct a secret ballot on the vote of no confidence on President Zuma is an unprecedented move for South Africa’s relatively young constitution. After much debate and decision-making between parliament and the supreme court, it was eventually deemed constitutional for the National Assembly Speaker to decide whether to allow a secret ballot to be held on this issue. Her decision, announced on 7 August 2017, to officially allow for a secret ballot was met with some surprise. The opposition felt Speaker Baleka Mbete’s alliance to the African National Congress (ANC) would distort her decision-making on this important and strategic matter, and that she should be recused from her position as a result. In order for the motion to pass, all opposition parties had to vote in favour of no confidence in the President, in addition to an additional fifty members from the ANC. The underlying premise of the secret ballot was that ANC members, who fill the majority of parliamentary seats, will be able to vote with their conscience, and not according to the party line.
After two hours of debate, the vote was conducted and the result was concluded as “negative”; the motion did not pass. Votes against the motion were totalled at 198, whilst the opposition were able to obtain 177 in favour of it. In order for the motion to succeed, the opposition would have needed a simple majority of 201 votes. Political parties will now look towards the ANC conference in December 2017, in which a new party leader will be elected, and thereby the official ANC presidential candidate for the general election in 2019. At present, there are two candidates for the role which have divided the party into opposing camps; President Zuma’s ex-wife and former chairperson for the African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Cyril Ramaphosa, a successful businessman, trade union leader, and current Deputy President for Zuma.
SOLACE GLOBAL COMMENT
The secret ballot was as much an attempt to remove Zuma, as it was a test for the future intensions and the stability of the ANC; the largest political party in South Africa which has governed since the end of Apartheid in 1994. Regardless of the outcome of the ballot, President Zuma’s tenure as president of the ANC and of the country is drawing to an end. He will soon be replaced as president of the party at the annual conference in December 2017. The positioning of his ex-wife as a potential candidate is viewed with some suspicion even though she has experience as minister of foreign affairs as well as a term spent as the minister of home affairs. It could be an attempt to ensure his protection from further charges once he leaves official office. Much celebration was had by ANC members after the vote result was announced, however the opposition had equal reasons to celebrate themselves.
The Way Forward for the ANC
The result of this motion, although winning, has forced the ANC to pursue a more strategic political plan over the next two years, with the ultimate aim of maintaining a governing role in the next general election. This motion of no confidence was in response to the late-night cabinet reshuffle undertaken by Zuma in March 2017. However, this is the eighth vote of no confidence held against President Zuma during his two presidential terms, all of which he has survived with ease. On this occasion however, 26 ANC MPs voted in favour of the motion against the President; a notable victory for the opposition. Constant justifications and support for President Zuma’s controversial decisions and widespread corruption allegations has only served to further divide the party between pro- and anti-Zuma camps. These tensions are evident within the ANC National Executive Committee, who would have struggled to appoint a suitable interim leader should the motion have passed. It is likely, it would have placed both aforementioned future party leader candidates in awkward positions. The alternative of holding an open ballot would have had significant repercussions for the party, as it would have been seen as a measure to strong arm its parliamentary members into voting according to the party interest and not necessarily that of the nation.
Is a Secret Ballot a Dangerous Precedent?
Ultimately, the constitution does not clearly stipulate rules regarding whether votes can be held in secret, or whether they must be held openly. Although some alterations were required in the National Assembly chamber in order to conduct the secret ballot, the voting process remains relatively the same and well regulated. The implications of such an unprecedented move in a relatively young democracy should be considered however. The Supreme Court has made it clear the constitution does not provide explicit guidelines for a secret versus open ballot. In an ideal situation, whether a vote is held in secret or open, should not have a significant impact on the overall result. However, with a multi-party democracy, in which one party has dominated for a long time with numerous allegations of embedded corruption, a parliamentarian’s allegiances may become skewed between representing the nation, or the party interests, as was successfully argued by the opposition. In this political environment however, the future of secret ballots are vulnerable to abuse by dominant political parties. After the vote of no confidence, South Africa’s legislative bodies must seriously consider and implement regulations or conditions on the future of conducting such votes again.
The Way Forward for the Opposition
The opposition stand to make considerable gains regardless of the outcome of the result. A favourable result would have led to the removal of the country’s president. On the other hand, the motion not passing may lead to increased support of opposition parties from disaffected ANC supporters, placing them in a better position for the 2019 general elections. In addition, opposition parties have formed a growing alliance in an effort to oust the president. Although united, they remain a minority in parliament; however, their coordinated efforts have mobilised large portions of the South African population and may continue to do so until campaigning for the general election begins. The Democratic Alliance, one of the largest opposition parties, will make an announcement on how they will proceed. One possible move is to pursue the reinstating of 783 formal charges laid against President Zuma on numerous corruption allegations. The results of this motion will have significant implications for the political environment in South Africa over the next two years.
Marches and demonstrations have so far been conducted peacefully and have been monitored by local police forces throughout the country. There were no significant protests or demonstrations after the vote result was announced, although there was some unrest before the vote. However, political developments in South Africa have resulted in civil unrest in the past. Travellers should remain up to date with the ongoing situation.
The political risk Â remains moderate in South Africa, as political stability is secure in the short-term due to robust political institutions. However, endemic corruption is widespread and is likely to have significant implications financially in the long term. Corruption continues to erode the authority of political and state institutions. Economic instability will be further exacerbated by the fluctuating exchange rates and junk status credit ratings; an international response to South Africaâs political uncertainty.
Travellers to South Africa should remain up to date with ongoing political developments, as there is potential for further marches and protests. It is recommended for all travellers to avoid large political gatherings as they may escalate quickly into violent episodes. The primary security threat to travellers in South Africa remains crime. A variety of criminal activity is evident throughout the country, from petty thievery to violent carjackings and burglaries. It is recommended for travellers to prearrange a security driver and vehicle prior to their arrival in country. A security driver will mitigate the potential threat of transiting high-risk suburbs for crime and civil unrest. Local transport infrastructure is weak and prone to robbers or scams. For all travel to South Africa, Solace Global would advise that clients seek pre-travel security advice, employ travel-tracking technology, and undertake journey management planning.
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