Let the hunt begin ...
Zuma’s backers, who are now calling for those who voted against the president to identify themselves, are flying in the face of assurances by Gwede Mantashe that the no-confidence vote remains secret
President Jacob Zuma has his enemies in the cross-hairs, calling for disciplinary action to be taken against ANC MPs who voted against him in last week’s motion of no confidence in parliament.
Despite his win, he is bent on acting against those who failed to toe the party line. This threatens to split the ANC even further as factions line up in support of and against his position.
Zuma supporters argue that those who voted against him should admit it — and face party discipline. Police minister Fikile Mbalula has gone so far as to suggest lie-detector tests to "smoke out" those who voted against Zuma.
The party on Tuesday confirmed it would discipline three MPs who were open about which way they voted, namely Makhosi Khoza, Pravin Gordhan and Derek Hanekom.
Opposition leaders said they wanted the ANC to remain inwardly focused — hence the push for the motion of no confidence. If this was their sole aim in bringing the motion, they succeeded.
The ANC has now been plunged into another internal fight along factional lines and not on the basis of principle, being fought in full glare of an electorate already fatigued by the crises facing Zuma’s administration.
It also comes at a dangerous time for the ANC: it is in the final stretch ahead of its national elective conference in December, in which Zuma’s successor as party leader will be elected.
The onslaught on dissenters is part of Zuma’s bid to ensure his candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, will be elected president over her opponent, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Last week’s motion was historic in that for the first time since 1994, up to 40 ANC MPs bucked the party line and either abstained or voted in favour of removing Zuma.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that Zuma’s days are numbered. This is particularly true within the party itself. He has used it as a shield and it has cushioned the blows against him — to its own detriment.
Zuma has already survived two attempts to force him to step down as head of state from within the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC). The stance of MPs in the most recent no-confidence vote could now embolden his opponents to move against him again.
This is why Zuma and his allies are out to rid the party of internal dissent, using the no-confidence motion as a reason, ahead of the December conference.
Their task is made more difficult by the fact that the historic vote was held in secret — making it impossible to determine who actually cast a vote against Zuma.
The constitutional court said while openness and transparency were was important, political parties were not above the constitution
Lawson Naidoo, director of the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, says any act of reprisal or retribution, including internal disciplinary action, would have "no basis in fact and law".
Naidoo says it may even constitute a criminal offence under the Powers, Privileges & Immunities of Parliament & Provincial Legislatures Act of 2004, which exists to protect the independence of MPs.
EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi has described Zuma as a "constitutional delinquent". An ANC MP who wished to remain anonymous has echoed this, saying the president and his backers learnt nothing from the constitutional court judgment on the secret ballot matter, which stated that political parties are not above the constitution. This allowed individual MPs to vote with their conscience and to do so without threats of retribution.
In November last year, Hanekom was the first in the NEC to speak out against Zuma and call on him to step down as head of state. Zuma backers also targeted Hanekom and Gordhan during the party’s national policy conference at the end of June.
"You cannot talk about a secret ballot ... there are MPs who are talking and tweeting about how they voted, they made public statements," says staunch Zuma backer and ANC Free State chairman Ace Magashule. "They want to be pushed out of the ANC ... we are saying there must be harsh action against such people."
ANC KwaZulu Natal chairman Sihle Zikalala has urged the party to convene a special NEC meeting to discuss identifying and disciplining MPs who are known to have voted against Zuma.
The position of Zuma allies contrasts starkly with that of ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who told the Financial Mail that the ballot was cast in secret and there is no way to determine how individual members voted.
The fight over whether to act against MPs known to have voted against Zuma is likely to preoccupy the party until it faces two further hurdles relating to its president.
The constitutional court will, on September 5, hear the impeachment case against him brought by the EFF, United Democratic Movement and Cope. The DA applied to join the motion earlier this month.
In October, Zuma’s appeal against the reinstatement of the 783 charges of corruption against him will be heard.
The walls continue to close in and, as they do, Zuma continues to dig in his heels. It can only end in tears.