You’d have to be the most irrational or dishonest supporter of Zuma or of the ANC if you were to conclude that today was a victory for Zuma or a victory for the ANC. That view is untenable.
Zuma survived the no confidence vote, ultimately, for one major reason (there are minor reasons too but leave those for now): one major reason was a reasonable (even if not unanswerable) fear among some anti-Zuma ANC MPs that the party will implode the morning after a no confidence vote as a result of zero consensus on who should take care in the interim, coupled with a related fear that, since Zuma remains the party president until December, he can wreak havoc inside the NEC trying to ensure both that those who voted him out don’t get returned to interim government positions including the few reliable members the Executive, and him being out of government means having even more opportunity to campaign for (and maybe even rigging the processes for) a Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma win in December.
That view is not wholly convincing. But it is coherent and reasonable. If there was clear consensus on this post-Zuma question, he would have been gone today.
That means in real terms that Zuma remains weak and worse: the maths today confirms that he is OFFICIALLY weakened and that the ANC spin about unity is now in shreds.
Despite the strident spontaneous speech from Zuma this evening, the outcome of the vote was not a demonstration and affirmation of confidence in him.
Notice how not ONE SINGLE ANC MP who spoke delivered any argument for the view that Zuma is doing a decent job as president. They all misdirected the debate intentionally to avoid the impossible burden of making a case for having confidence in Zuma.
So, really, most ANC MPs and most factions want him out: there is simply reasonable disagreement about the mechanism, the roadmap in the short term & whether it is better to keep the ruinous figure there while trying to do a little bit inside government for the poor or risk not being returned to government as, say, a member of the Executive.
I don’t buy this myself. I think the state capture project is so patently anti-poor and deeply anti-democratic that the perceived uncertainty about an interim government is a low risk compared to the guaranteed sustained and gigantic economic and political cost of one more day of Zuma as president.
But the nexus point is that many ANC MPs who voted “No” today did not do so out of support for Zuma.
In the end today was a huge boost for the opposition parties and for democracy because the prospects of a more competitive body politic became stronger as we can see from the deep open fissures in the ANC now on public display.
All the political actors will claim victories today. The full truth lies somewhere between their respective exaggerated readings of what the result occasions.
Zuma will not survive for more than six months still. The ANC however had better hope and pray that the state is not a carcass by then in which case their 8th August 2017 concern about when and how to get rid of him could cost them 2019 because you cannot build a new functioning state within one year of a general election looming.
No ANC supporter with a head (or two) on their shoulder can celebrate. You have work today. Imminently
Eusebius Mckaiser is a political commentator and talk show host.