The opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF), destabilised by the mass exodus of its militants, most of whom have become the target of separatist militias, is divided over its participation in the local elections of 9 February.
South Africa’s Zuma unshaken ahead of today’s no-confidence vote
Instead, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will be leading the government side in the debate today. Zuma has been out of the country for the last two no-confidence votes against him. They were both overwhelmingly defeated.
Crowds started gathering outside the parliament building in Cape Town early on Thursday morning and some of Zuma’s opponents say they are planning street protests against him this afternoon while the vote is in progress.
Top officials in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) have said there was no chance that the no confidence motion backed by opposition MPs would succeed. But the ANC is taking no chances, 200 of its MPs are already accredited to cast their votes today.
For the opposition parties to win the motion of no-confidence in Zuma, they would have had to persuade at least 50 ANC MPs to join them or abstain. That now looks impossible but there is likely to be a very loud and bad tempered debate in parliament.
The committee said it took a recent report by South Africa’s public prosecutor Thuli Madonsela about “state capture” – which has become political shorthand in the country for Zuma’s ties to the wealthy Gupta family – extremely seriously. But it insisted that calls for “the President to step down were premature and unfounded”.
It will back the establishment of a judicial commission, as recommended by Madonsela, on state capture. But it also recognises the right of the much-criticised state electricity company Eskom and others to get a judicial review of the report beforehand. That could delay the judicial commission for months, if not years.
None of this is, however, a ringing endorsement of President Zuma from within ANC ranks. On Thursday morning, all the ANC MPs are due to have their weekly caucus meeting. Insiders expect a robust discussion about tactics for the no-confidence vote later in the day. The ANC has 61% of the 400 MPs, so it would take at least 50 ANC MPs to vote with the opposition for the no-confidence vote to succeed.
Last week, detractors and supporters of Zuma within the ANC caucus clashed verbally in parliament, although few insiders thought that more than a handful of governing party MPs would vote against Zuma or even abstain. Less predictable will be the tactics of the MPs of the radical leftist opposition, the Economic Freedom Fighters, who have repeatedly called for Zuma’s immediate exit from power.