09 Aug

No confidence vote: a victory for Zuma, but a defeat for the ANC

South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, overcame an eighth no confidence vote, despite the mountain of evidence of corrupt conduct

Jacob Zuma is a natural born political survivor. Yesterday South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, overcame an eighth no confidence vote, despite the mountain of evidence of corrupt conduct that has emerged in recent months.

But it may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory – for him and most certainly for his party, the African National Congress (ANC). “Hollow” was the word that one opposition leader, Bantu Holomisa, used afterwards, while the Economic Freedom Fighter’s leader Julius Malema employed a well-known Africa proverb: “When you want to eat an elephant you do it bit by bit”.

Zuma’s political death is proving to be a protracted affair. There was an air of expectation yesterday that recent allegations of “state capture” – attested to by a welter of evidence from the so-called #guptaleaks – would be enough to persuade a sufficient number of the members of the ruling ANC to support an opposition-sponsored no confidence vote.

In the event, after a fractious two-hour debate scarred by ugly banter across the floor of the National Assembly, the motion fell short of the 201 votes required to remove Zuma and his cabinet. But yesterday was remarkably different. On the previous seven occasions that the opposition have tabled no confidence votes since Zuma’s power began in 2009, the ANC has remained steadfast in its support for its beleaguered president. Yesterday’s vote was a watershed for the liberation movement that brought an end to apartheid in 1994: around 30 of the 223 ANC MPs who voted yesterday sided with the opposition.

As the ANC’s chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, ruefully observed afterwards, this is true pause for reflection for the ruling party. Never before has such a significant number of the parliamentary caucus rebelled and defied the party whip.

Zuma’s streetwise political skills are well-known. So too is his adeptness at using executive patronage to secure the loyalty of party members as has been made clear in the revelations arising from his links to the Gupta family.

The secret ballot saga

But the back story to the unprecedented rebellion within his own party was the method of voting as much as Zuma’s political skullduggery. For the first time, parliament was compelled to allow MPs to vote in secret. This followed a legal challenge to the rules by Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement.

In its 22 June judgment, the Constitutional Court – an institutional beacon of excellence and integrity in the context of the “capture” of other state bodies – had held that the speaker of the National Assembly had the discretion to order a secret ballot in exceptional circumstances.

Since the ruling, a number of ANC MPs have gone public with testimony of intimidation and even death threats in the case of Makhosi Khoza. In turn, the ANC shot itself in the foot when one region of Zuma’s home province, KwaZulu-Natal, demanded that disciplinary proceedings be brought against Khoza after she had called for Zuma to go. The intervention served to underline the need to depart from the generally established principle of open voting.

Accordingly, speaker Baleka Mbete had little legal choice but to opt for a secret ballot, even though it would encourage dissenting voices among the ranks of the ANC caucus. Politically, she had probably done the political mathematics and, as the national chairperson of the ANC, was confident that regardless of the shield that she said was necessary to protect ANC MPs so that they could vote with their conscience, the numbers would still work out in Zuma’s favour.

And so it proved: 177 MPs voted for the motion, and 198 against (with 9 abstentions). Since the opposition has 151 MPs, at least three of whom were absent through illness, it means that that at least 29 and possibly as many as 35 ANC MPs jumped ship.

Win-win for the opposition

But it was a win-win situation for the opposition. Afterwards, in the unseasonably balmy winter’s evening outside the parliament in Cape Town, one after another of the leaders of the opposition spoke cheerfully about the political future and of the health of South Africa’s democracy.

They may have lost the battle, but they feel confident that they will win the war. After all, it is clear that Zuma is now their greatest electoral asset, with several polls (including the respected Afrobarometer), showing that across race and class, trust in Zuma has collapsed since he was returned to power for a second term in 2014.

Last year, the ANC suffered its first major electoral setbacks since the advent of democracy in 1994 when it lost control of three major city governments in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. Now, its political management skills appear to be in disarray as factionalism and deep, painful divisions dominate internal party politics. This is all unfolding in the run-up to what is likely to be a bloody five-yearly national elective conference in December, at which the ANC will elect a new President of the party to succeed Zuma.

That may or may not mark the start of a new era of renewal for the ANC. But Zuma’s term as President of the country is only due to end in 2019. A lot more damage could be done to the country’s economy and its prospects for growth.

The consequence of that, however, is that the ANC will face the prospect of losing its majority at the national polls for the first time since Nelson Mandela’s historic victory in 1994.

Yesterday may have been a victory for Zuma. But in the longer term it is likely to come to be seen as a major defeat for the ANC.

 

Source from The Conversation 

07 Aug

Paul Kagame re-elected president with 99% of vote in Rwanda election

Paul Kagame re-elected president in Rwanda election

Former guerrilla leader praised for bringing stability and growth after genocide but criticised as authoritarian wins third term.

Paul Kagame, the controversial president of Rwanda, has won a landslide victory in the small African state’s election, securing a third term in office and extending his 17 years in power.

The result will surprise no one, inside or outside Rwanda.

Kagame, 59, has won international praise for the stability and economic development he has brought Rwanda since the 1994 genocide, when an estimated 800,000 people were killed, but he has also been accused of running an authoritarian, one-party state. Some have dismissed the polls as a sham.

Friday’s election came after a constitutional amendment, which ended a two-term limit for presidents and theoretically permits Kagame to remain in power until 2034. The amendment was approved by 98% of voters.

In the final tally for Friday’s election, he won almost 99% of votes cast, said Kalisa Mbanda, chairman of the National Electoral Commission.

The board expects turnout in the east African country of 12 million people to have topped 90% in an election that fielded only a single opposition candidate, Frank Habineza, and an independent.

Habineza, a former journalist who leads the Green Democratic party, said last week the authorities in Rwanda were “starting to understand the opposition can play a role in running the country”.

“We are still treated as if we are enemies … but so far in this election no one in our party has been killed or imprisoned or harassed and that means at least some progress,” he said before a rally in the small southern town of Rango.

The election board disqualified another would-be opponent, Diane Rwigara, despite her insistence that she met all the requirements to run.

After results were announced, Kagame said he would work to sustain economic growth. Infant mortality and poverty levels have dropped rapidly in Rwanda in recent decades, while literacy rates and other indicators of development have soared. New roads have been built and an ambitious programme of investment launched. Kigali is perhaps the cleanest and most orderly African capital city.

“This is another seven years to take care of issues that affect Rwandans and ensure that we become real Rwandans who are [economically] developing,” he said in a speech broadcast live on television.

Kagame led rebel forces into Rwanda to end the 1994 genocide and went on to wage further wars in the region. He won the last election in 2010 with 93% of the vote, and said during this campaign that he again expected an outright victory.

Despite some discontent over joblessness and other issues, the president appears authentically popular in Rwanda, which has had some of the fastest economic growth rates in Africa and has become known for its stability in a deeply troubled region.

At a succession of rallies attended by large numbers of supporters from the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party, Kagame promised more schools, roads and clinics. Supporters at a rally in Burera in the north of the landlocked country said last week that they could not imagine another leader.

Reuters reported that voters celebrated the election result into the early hours of Saturday.

“Last night was fantastic. People kept coming in until my bar had more than 200 people. I usually get 100 on normal days. They were all celebrating and I left at 2am, but they were still dancing and more were coming,” said John Habimana, owner of the popular Roasty Bar in Kigali.

Other residents were less happy, the agency said. “To me I see this as a one-man race. I simply did not go to vote,” said one man in the capital who asked not to be named.

via The Guardian