Since the end of apartheid, the ANC has been the ruling party in South Africa. Though it bears the reputation of being the party of liberty and freedom, there is a faction in South Africa that believes that the ANC is evolving and that President Jacob Zuma has exploited these ideological shifts with his greed and excess.
On August 7th, thousands marched in the streets of Cape Town, South Africa, in protest of the next day’s no-confidence vote against President Zuma. In an unprecedented display of unity, among them were representatives from the civil sector coalition, #UniteBehind; members of political parties and unions; and supporters of the recently formed FutureSA, an organization of the country’s elite and influential. Marchers also included frustrated and fed-up citizens.
The vote was widely perceived as a referendum on Zuma and, to a lesser degree, the ANC, revealing fissures in today’s perception of the party as opposed to its history and legacy. Zuma’s alleged and proven transgressions are well documented. He had become a costly source of embarrassment to South Africa and the ANC. His eight-year reign led to South Africa’s economy going into a fast freefall. After his abrupt firing of the widely respected and highly competent Minister of Finance, Standard and Poor’s, in another show of no confidence, reduced their bonds to junk bond status.
On August 8th, Parliament voted by secret ballot, the first such vote in South Africa’s history. The decision was controversial and opposed by the masses and the ANC. Zuma and the Speaker of the National Assembly opposed it, seeking an open ballot as outlined in the constitution; the ANC wanted the same, only their goal was to insure loyalty. The procedure gained momentum when members of civil society, in an effort to “call the question,” switched their support to a secret ballot. Seeing the “winds of change,” the Speaker acquiesced and a secret ballot was held.
In the final tally, 198 members of Parliament supported the president and 177 voted for censure. Censure needed 201, and analysis finds that the pro no-confidence side received at least thirty-five ANC votes. Supporters were jubilant in their win. Critics, although disappointed, took some encouragement from the fact that the rising presence of ANC votes could signal the beginning of the end of Zuma’s death grip on the party.
Zuma’s reign is coming to a close, as the ANC holds its convention in December and will vote in new leadership that will not be Jacob Zuma. However, Zuma, in anticipation of possible criminal charges and the need for pardons, is promoting one of his six wives as a potential presidential candidate.
As the U.S., too, faces the possibility of criminal charges and potential pardons, nonprofits must continue to develop and grow coalitions and networks. It may be that, like in South Africa, these coalitions will be called upon to lobby for more than additional programs and resources.—Mary Frances Mitchner