South African President Jacob Zuma has reportedly survived an attempt for a no-confidence vote within his own African National Congress (ANC) party. The president survived the vote following an extended and tense debate within the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on Tuesday. Zuma is on a visit to Cuba to attend funeral ceremonies for former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, local press reports said. “The NEC resolved it was more urgent to direct the energies of the ANC in its entirety to working towards the unity of the movement,” the local News24 reported.
According to the report, a motion of no confidence in President Zuma was first rejected by NEC member and Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom on November 26, resulting in an extended meeting that continued well past Monday night. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi are the main proponents of Zuma’s ouster. International Relations Minister Maite Nkoane Mashabane, State Security Minister David Mahlobo and Agricultural Minister Senzeni Zokwana support Zuma to stay on as president.
Zuma has been under fire for a series of scandals but the strong effort to press him to step down took many by surprise within the ANC, which has held power since 1994. The president, however, headed off the most serious threat to his grip on power since he came to office in 2009. “The president told us that he will never step down, as it would be like handing himself over to the enemy, and that there are people who want to see him in jail,” said an unidentified source at the closed-door debate as quoted by News24.
The president has been weakened by multiple corruption allegations and damaging court rulings this year. The ANC suffered a serious setback in local elections in August. In addition, unemployment has hit a 13-year high under Zuma. The South African president has come under renewed pressure since a corruption probe earlier this month revealed new allegations of misconduct.
The investigation by the country’s top watchdog uncovered evidence of possible criminal activity in his relationship with the Guptas, a business family accused of wielding undue political influence. Zuma, however, continues to retain strong loyalty among many rank-and-file ANC party members, as well as its lawmakers. He easily survived a vote of no confidence in parliament on November 10. He is due to stand down in 2019 after serving the maximum two terms.