The Mistake We Nearly Made
How a botched vote of no confidence was really
a blessing to us as a nation.

Article by Dr Funokwakhe Cedric Xulu

16 January 2014  


Towards the beginning of last year (2013), there was a serious chaos in parliament as opposition parties struggled to remove President Jacob Zuma through a vote of no confidence. Despite the efforts of those involved, the motion of no confidence against our "Honourable President" failed due to technicalities after the matter was taken to the Constitutional Court. Many South Africans at the time including some members of the African National Congress wanted Mr Zuma ousted. In truth his survival was a blessing in disguise as we look at some events that have since unfolded to help turn public opinion against him.


In April 2013, the Gupta scandal erupted, involving the unlawful landing of a private airplane on the military Waterkloof Air Force Base, which President Jacob Zuma vehemently denied, though was clearly implicated. Prior to that, the Marikana Massacre. Prior to that, a stream of other mistreatments of state privileges had become more and more apparent.


The reason why the failed vote of no confidence serves as a blessing to us is that, had it functioned in the manner in which the oppositions were expecting it to, we would, as a country, have never been exposed to the true nature of Zuma and his cronies. The Marikana massacre, a devastating show of police violence and brutality on disgruntled mine workers was just the beginning. Whilst it would be naive to blame the occurrences at Lonmin to Jacob Zuma, his elected Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega's handling of the situation reflected poorly on the man whose decision it was to have her succeed Bheki Cele. The Marikana tragedy and the fallout from the event served as a marker for the future interactions of the government with its people.


The gross disregard for public opinion that followed, as well as abuse of public trust and state coffers have become such that a large majority of the public have turned to look at our President with an air of disdain. The great uncovering of the unjust spending of millions (over 250m to be accurate) of state funds for "necessary security upgrades" to President Zuma's Nkandla homestead started as a great reveal of a huge robbing of the South African taxpayer's money. This has slowly grown to serve as a brand that will surely sink any chance the ANC has of retaining power in South Africa, if not now, in a few short years to come. The entire Nkandla situation has opened the eyes of all who wish to see. The man on the street, everyday voters who would usually render themselves oblivious to such news could and now no longer can ignore something of this magnitude. This all flows back to the failed vote of no confidence, in that, had Zuma not been allowed to act in the manner in which he has, even after more and more normal citizens have turned to shun his actions, we would not be in the situation we sit in today.


The ANC now sits in an incredibly weakened position due to its blatant refusal to put Deputy President Motlante as its President, a candidate who is less of a liability than Zuma. The current booing of Jacob Zuma in front of hundreds of head of states by members of the African National Congress serves to confirm my contention. If such disapproval can be shown from within one's own ranks, imagine the extent to which these feelings are felt throughout less aligned members of the populace. A very bleak future awaits the ruling party, with an unwanted candidate and an unending barrage of questions pertaining to what the next move is with regards to our nation, as well as the constant chore of having to cover up and public obfuscate the actions of the president. Whilst the naysayers and predictors of doom may predict a civil war in the near future should the ANC lose, the people of South Africa now know what they have in both the ANC and its President Jacob Zuma. If the ANC loses elections as the only means of outing the the power-giddy ANC it will be due to the actions of Zuma and the lack of accountability that has defined his term in power and irreconcilable differences between the party and the people it is supposed to serve. This weakness means that the ruling party's assumption that the vote is easily won will certainly dwindle as they may have to fight, even this year, to retain a comfortable ruling majority.


So, riddled with holes, the weakened ANC's campaign this year can be rightly attributed to Zuma's actions. Had Zuma's vote of no confidence passed, the state of politics within South Africa may have been different. However, as things stand, the truth about the blatant disregard the current President has for our country's resources, legislative systems and hard-working citizens, has been shown by his own actions, without much need for probing. The evidence sits on the surface. So, whilst the vote of no confidence failed to achieve its aim, in the end, its purpose was carried forth by the very same man it intended to show to be of a questionable leadership calibre in the eyes of all South Africans.


Dr Funokwakhe Cedric Xulu, is the Head of Inkatha Freedom Party's Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Committee. He sits in the Political Oversight Committee as well as National Council. He writes this in his own personal capacity