In an unprecedented show of unity, all but two opposition parties will march on the Union Buildings on Wednesday calling for President Jacob Zuma to be recalled. The demonstration is a backdrop to the motion of no confidence vote in Zuma next Tuesday. It hangs in the balance as the Constitutional Court is set to hear an application for ANC MPs to be allowed to vote in secret. By GREG NICOLSON.
“We want Jacob Zuma to resign!” blared an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) member outside Pretoria train station on Monday. “All people who love South Africa, who want to have a beautiful South Africa, must go to Church Square on Wednesday!” The party’s regional deputy chairperson, Moafrika Mabogwana, said the message to mobilise was simple: “Fellow South Africans must stop commenting from their Twitter and lounge rooms and come and march with us.”
Opposition parties are ramping up pressure on the ANC to act against President Jacob Zuma, uniting in a campaign calling for his removal. The first event is a “national day of action” on Wednesday. It follows marches across the country last week in which at least 60,000 people took to the streets demanding Zuma be removed from office and the opposition parties aim to pressure ANC MPs to vote in support of a motion of no confidence in the president next Tuesday.
“As part of our programme, political parties across the country will mobilise their members and structures to engage in activities geared towards forcing the ruling party to recall their deployee. Or, to exert enough pressure that President Zuma will do the honourable thing and resign,” said a statement from the African Independent Congress (AIC), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), African People’s Convention (APC), Congress of the People (Cope), Agang SA, Democratic Alliance (DA), EFF, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM).
The opposition parties’ co-operation is unprecedented and ACDP deputy president Wayne Thring, speaking at a briefing in Tshwane, called it “multiparty democracy at its best”. UDM president Bantu Holomisa said the National Freedom Party (NFP) expressed support for the programme on Monday.
Two opposition parties in Parliament were not there – the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+). “No, we are not supporting the march,” said PAC president Luthando Mbinda. “This thing has got nothing to do with the return of land.” Zuma is beholden to the Guptas while his potential replacement, Cyril Ramaphosa, is in the pocket of white business, said Mbinda. Neither will change government policy. Mbinda, the PAC’s only member in the National Assembly, will abstain from Tuesday’s vote.
FF+ chairperson Pieter Groenewald said his party would vote to remove Zuma but would not support Wednesday’s march. He said his party supported the civil society marches on Friday but from a strategic point of view thinks opposition-party-led demonstrations will be written off by the ANC as politicking.
“Don’t think it’s a small, little thing,” said Cope president Mosioua Lekota at the Tshwane briefing. “This campaign is a serious campaign and it’s a campaign to save South Africa from the ANC, which has been destroying South Africa and now has destroyed the economy and has left millions of South Africans who are going to die of starvation,” he said, referring to the economic impact of the credit downgrades from Fitch and S&P.
The 10 opposition parties are mobilising supporters and working with civil society groups to march to the Union Buildings on Wednesday. They will meet at 09:00 in Church Square and depart at 12:00. A permit for the march has been granted by the TMPD. Party leaders said they would not be intimidated by ANC supporters seeking to disrupt the march and warned them either to come in support of the call for Zuma to resign or stay away. Police had to intervene during Friday’s marches in Johannesburg and Durban as ANC supporters tried to attack DA members.
The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and the Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) have been Zuma’s key defenders. ANCYL secretary general Njabulo Nzuza said there are no counterprotests planned for Wednesday. Daily Maverick couldn’t reach MKMVA leaders for comment.
“We’re not going to be bullied by anyone, not that uniform from PEP store which they wear there at Luthuli House,” said EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema, referring to MKMVA supporters who rallied around ANC headquarters on Friday. “This is a peaceful march but we’re not scared of anyone like that.” IFP Youth Brigade chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa added, “We are concerned about the escalating tone and the violence, but we cannot be deterred by it.”
Wednesday’s march will take place less than a week before the National Assembly hears a motion of no confidence in Zuma. Even if all opposition parties support the motion to force the president to resign, they will need 51 ANC Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote against their leader. Some ANC MPs, particularly those in the SA Communist Party, have suggested they may support the motion, but the ANC has said it will instruct members to vote according to the party line and retain Zuma.
“There have been a number of ANC leaders and MPs who approached our leader Mmusi Maimane indicating they would be willing to support a motion of no confidence and they would speak to some of their colleagues,” said DA spokesperson Phumzile van Damme. “If they don’t listen to us as fellow politicians, we hope they will listen to the South Africans who have made their voices quite loud and want to be heard in that they do not want to be led by Jacob Zuma.”
“We’re hoping that if they don’t listen to us they will at least listen to the people who put them in office and they’ll vote accordingly,” said Van Damme, noting the tens of thousands of people who have protested last week and are set to demonstrate on Wednesday. She claimed the DA has received thousands of SMSes, emails and phone calls encouraging Zuma’s removal. Malema said the opposition parties continue to lobby ANC members. “It’s an ongoing thing. We are engaging individual Members of Parliament.”
The motion of no confidence is unlikely to succeed if MPs vote openly, as they usually do, leaving dissenting ANC MPs open to reprisals. The UDM on Monday lodged papers with the Constitutional Court calling for a secret ballot. The rules of the House appear to support secret ballots if the majority is behind such a motion, which the ANC is unlikely to support.
ANC members, such as Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisilu, Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu and Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe, perceived as willing to challenge the president, have reportedly been threatened recently, but Malema said ANC MPs must remove the president. “You can’t be scared not to lose your job. The ultimate price is death. They’re not going to kill you. They’re going to take your job and then you are scared to save a country because you want to keep a job.” In the same press conference, Malema said if the vote is open “it will move from intimidation into killing”.
Malema said parties must be united to remove Zuma and vote accordingly, regardless of who institutes the parliamentary motion. “Truth remains the truth, it doesn’t matter who’s telling the truth.” Lekota, who before forming Cope was an ANC leader, noted the “very unfounded and wrong” view that the ANC can dismiss members who vote with their conscience. He spoke of past votes on abortion and the rights of lesbians. “Nobody can compel them to break their oath of office. You carry that responsibility.” Former President Kgalema Motlanthe recently said voting against Zuma would not constitute misconduct under the ANC constitution.
If the motion of no confidence succeeds, the opposition parties would probably have to work with supportive ANC MPs to elect a new president. Speaker Baleka Mbete would temporarily act as president before a new leader is elected. Malema noted the irony that if two people are nominated as president, the vote will be held in secret, but while trying to remove a president, the vote is held in the open.
“There’s no agreement of these parties as to who should succeed Zuma. I think that would compromise the independence of the parties here,” said Malema. “We’re not saying the ruling party should be removed; Zuma should be removed… But the ANC should remain the majority party in Parliament and if there is a vacancy they too should have the right to present their candidate.”
Lekota said, “We can’t replace [Zuma] with his own products who are going to do exactly what he’s been doing. We need to put in place men and women who respect the Constitution.”
The potential impact of Wednesday’s march has been questioned, but opposition party leaders argued that removing Zuma is a step towards reform. “The only way of rescuing this country and its economy; the first step in the right direction is to remove Zuma and then rebuild our economy,” said Malema.
The APC’s Themba Godi said regardless of what happens during Wednesday’s march or the motion of no confidence vote, “The most important thing is mobilisation and conscientisation of the people.” The action marks the beginning, but, he said, “It’s a process.” DM
Photo: The People’s March against President Jacob Zuma, Madiba Street, Tshwane, 7 April 2017. (Greg Nicolson)