South African lawmakers have voted against a motion to impeach President Jacob Zuma. Last week the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma had violated the constitution by spending state money on his private home.
South African lawmakers on Tuesday voted 233 to 143 against a motion to impeach ruling President Jacob Zuma. Amidst shouts of "Zuma must go," the parliament’s deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli dismissed the motion.
The heated parliamentary debate came after the country’s Constitutional Court passed a judgment saying that the president had violated the law and must pay back the money he spent for upgrades on his private home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province.
The court had ruled that Zuma had "failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution" in ignoring the directives of the public prosecutor, Thuli Madonsela, to pay back money that had been used for non-security upgrades. These included a swimming pool, a cattle enclosure and chicken run and an amphitheater. The project is said to cost South African tax papers $24 million (21 million euros).
ANC not true to itself?
During the debate, Mmusi Maimane, leader of the biggest opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA), told his fellow lawmakers: "We know that the ANC will fall in line behind President Zuma." He went on to say that the Constitutional Court ruling should have been the end of Zuma’s presidency.
The DA leader said that while Zuma and the ANC had downplayed the matter, he regarded it as "a big deal."
Tuesday's vote would show that the ANC has lost its way. "Corruption has infected the entire party like a cancer." Maimane said, adding that Zuma’s recent scandals and Tuesday’s debate would be reflected in future local elections, in which he predicted people would no longer vote for the ANC.
John Jeffery, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and a member of the ANC, countered that Zuma had not committed a serious crime. He argued that the president had apologized for his mistakes and had always acted in good faith.
Amidst much shouting the opposition DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) parties opened the debate by calling on the parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete to step aside. The opposition claimed that Mbete, who also holds the position of ANC chairperson and had previously defended Zuma’s actions, could not objectively preside over the debate.
House Speaker Baleka Mbete became the focus of the debate as opposition lawmakers claimed she had sided with Zuma
"You are therefore party to the crimes that took place," DA whip, John Steenhuizen argued. "I would ask you Madam Speaker, in the interest of restoring the credibility of this parliament, that you make the decision to invoke rule 15 and ask the deputy speaker to preside over this debate today." EFF leader, Julius Malema, told Mbete that his party would issue her with court papers. The Speaker did not officially recuse herself, but she did hand the debate over to her deputy.
On Friday (01.04.2016) Zuma promised to pay back the money and apologized for the matter in an address to the nation. Zuma’s critics, however, voiced their disappointment as many had expected him to resign. Zuma has not only been in the spotlight because of the Nklandla case, but also because of his alleged ties to a governmental corruption scandal involving the Gupta family.
Reactions from South Africans
South Africans have been closely following the development of the Nkandla scandal, or #NkandlaGate as it is it known on social media, since it began. Calls for Zuma to leave, were reflected on Twitter under the hashtag #ZumaMustFall. Here is how some South Africans reacted to the debate:
At the political level, leading opinion-makers like former ANC spokesperson Denis Goldberg and veteran anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada called for Zuma to step down after the Constitutional Court’s decision. "Political leadership requires that one serves the people and not oneself," Goldberg told DW .