How did Zuma survive yet another no-confidence vote?

How did Zuma survive yet another no-confidence vote?
From Al Jazeera - August 11, 2017

The South African parliament held a motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma earlier this week, which he survived by 21 votes. It was the eighth time Zuma had faced a no-confidence vote.

The opposition in South Africa might not have been victorious in trying to remove Zuma from power, but a clear message came from his own party. The results suggest at least 26 members (if not more) of the African National Congress (ANC) voted in favour of the motion.

The vote was preceded by a back-and-forth between the speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete and the opposition on having the no-confidence motion through a secret vote.

Mbete tried to dodge responsibility for making the decision, but the opposition took the issue to the constitutional court which eventually ruled that it was her prerogative.

On August 7 the speaker allowed for a secret ballot, and the following day the no-confidence vote was held. With the ANC enjoying an absolute majority in parliament (249 of the 400 seats), why did Mbete, a senior ANC member, give in to the demands of the opposition?

Was it that she wanted to show impartiality? Or was it that she wanted to exhaust all possible legal resorts of the opposition in removing the president?

It seems it was important to allow the vote of no confidence to play out in order to send a message to South Africans that the speaker allowed a democratic process to take place. By opening to the opposition all possible political avenues to express dissent, the ANC aims to prevent any political escalation. If the opposition has the political space to challenge Zuma, it cannot justify taking its grievances to the streets which could descend into violence.

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The no-confidence vote was also an opportunity for the ANC to attempt to mask the unpopularity of the president within his own party. With these results, the ANC can now claim that despite some internal opposition, the majority of its MPs stand firmly behind Zuma.

It seems the opposition went for the no-confidence vote with high expectations suffering from political myopia. It had hoped that the secret ballot would encourage more ANC members to vote for the motion and help to topple the president.

It is unclear what made the opposition and many commentators think that there would be a significant number of ANC members willing to facilitate their agenda. That the opposition made these assumptions was surprising, particularly after the statements of unity made after the recent National Policy Conference of the ANC.


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