South African lawmakers have decided to keep President Jacob Zuma in power, with the ruling ANC party backing the leader despite corruption charges. The emotionally charged vote triggered rallies across the country.
South African President Jacob Zuma seemed emboldened after lawmakers from his ruling African National Congress (ANC) helped reject a no-confidence vote on Tuesday. Zuma garnered 198 votes to the opposition's 177, with nine lawmakers abstaining in the secret ballot.
"The ANC is there, is powerful, is big," Zuma said once the result was official.
Deputies from the ANC broke into song and dance to mark the victory of their embattled leader. In a statement following the vote, the party announced that "we reiterate that we will never endorse or vote in favor of any motion that seeks to cripple our country." The ANC also accused its rivals of trying to "collapse government, deter service delivery and sow seeds of chaos in society."
The main opposition Democratic Alliance reacted bitterly to the defeat. "The majority of the ANC have chosen corruption, looting," the DA announced in a statement released late Tuesday. " Zuma is mortally wounded, and his party is in tatters," the bloc charged.
The 75-year-old president has survived several previous attempts to unseat him, but the latest effort marks the first time that the issue was decided in a secret ballot.The ANC hold 249 seats in the 400-seat assembly. The results indicate that dozens of ANC lawmakers ended up supporting the no-confidence motion, as the ruling party holds 249 of the seats in parliament, five of which are currently vacant.
Zuma appeared at a rally in Cape Town later on Tuesday, accusing his rivals of trying to use technicalities to take over the government.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Cape Town during the vote, carrying "Fire Zuma" banners, while several hundreds of ANC supporters danced on the streets and chanted "Zuma must stay." Opposition leader Mmusi Maimane urged lawmakers to "vote with their conscience."
Earlier Tuesday, ANC deputies pledged to support Zuma, who also attended the meeting. Several of them were singing while walking out of the session.
"You hear the singing," ANC's chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, told the eNCA television channel. "Zuma was toying (dancing),," Mthembu added. "That is what we do when we are under attack."
Trouble for ANC
Zuma's career was marked by a series of public scandals even before he took office in 2009. He was acquitted of a rape charge in 2006, and numerous corruption charges were also dropped before he was elected head of state, most of them linked to a 1999 arms deal, when Zuma was deputy president. A court challenge to reinstate the graft process in currently underway.
As president, Zuma has managed to fight off impeachment proceedings for using public money to improve one of his homes. Although he maintained a grip on power, he was ordered by the court to repay 7.8 million rand (587,800 dollars, 497,650 euros) to state coffers.
I In addition to allegations of influence-peddling for the Gupta family, Zuma also sparked outrage by firing popular Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015, and replacing him with an unknown but loyal legislator. South Africa faces high unemployment, rising prices and increasing poverty. Zuma's opponents claim that the long-reigning leader delegitimized his party, which brought Nelson Mandela to power in 1994 and has controlled the government ever since.
Zuma promised to resign as ANC party chief in December and as president before the next general election in 2019.
dj/msh (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)