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Jacob Zuma, The President Who “Did Nothing Wrong”

We thought this day would never come – Jacob Zuma has finally taken the L and resigned as the president of South Africa. Zuma has survived nine years as the head of state, eight whole motions of no confidence the last one by secret ballot and a number of Zuma Must Fall protests. 

Zuma announced his resignation to the nation late on Wednesday night at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Till his last day, Zuma never understood why people wanted him out. “No one has told me what I have done wrong. No one has been able to furnish what I’ve done. If I’ve done something wrong, there are processes within the ANC. I found it very unfair to me that this issue must be raised all the time,” he said in an exclusive interview with the SABC on Wednesday.

Media outlets had been reporting that Zuma’s days were numbered since March 2016 when the Constitutional Court made uBaba pay back the tax money that he spent on his Nkandla home upgrades. But he persevered, and the nation lost confidence.

Here’s a walk down memory lane with all the failed motions of no confidence against uBaba.

1. March 2010: Zuma is unfit to hold office
The first of many motions to come, this brought by the Congress of the People (Cope), which argued that the president had failed to uphold his office. The motion was based on charges Zuma faced in previous years, and also highlighted his Aids scandal and dodgy business interests. The ANC switched it up and responded to the motion by turning it into a motion of confidence in Zuma, which the speaker allowed. The motion – to express confidence in Zuma – passed with 235 votes yes, and 88 votes no.

2. December 2012: Zuma failed to appear in Parliament to answer questions
The Democratic Alliance (DA) had a first stab at a motion of no confidence in Zuma on 7 December 2012 – just before the 53rd ANC national conference. The motion was withdrawn and the ANC accused the DA of trying to destabilise the party ahead of its conference, where the party delegates overwhelmingly voted to keep Zuma as party president.

That election victory meant that Zuma also sealed his second term as president of the country.

3. September 2014: Speaker Baleka Mbete is biased
Just for flavour, the DA tabled a motion of no confidence in national assembly speaker Baleka Mbete, arguing that she was biased against opposition parties in Parliament. The ANC tried its previous trick of switching to motion of confidence in Mbete but all opposition parties walked out of Parliament in protest. The ANC voted unanimously to shoot down the motion of no confidence with 234 votes no, unopposed.

The move against Mbete was ultimately about ensuring that Zuma wasn’t being protected from the opposition parties by the highest-ranking parliamentary official.

4. March 2015: Zuma’s Nkandla saga and the Constitution
After THAT ConCourt ruling, the DA tabled yet another motion of no confidence in the president. The ANC defended Zuma and said he had acted in good faith – being genuinely misinformed about the processes to follow – and had apologised and agreed to pay back the money. The motion didn’t pass, ANC using its majority to push 211 votes no, versus the opposition’s 100 votes yes.

Ever the laughing president, Zuma later joked about Nkandla in Parly.

5. September 2015: Zuma allowed Al Bashir to escape
When Zuma allowed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir – a fugitive of the International Criminal Court –  the DA tried to impeach him under Section 89(1) of the Constitution. The impeachment was a long shot and it failed, with the ANC majority voting 211 no votes, to the oppositions’ 100 yes votes.

6. March 2016: Zuma killed the economy with NeneGate
After a rocky first quarter in 2016, when Zuma fired then-finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and the South African market tanked, the DA tried AGAIN to have National Assembly vote on a motion of no confidence in the president. Cope members were thrown out for following the speaker’s orders; the EFF walked out, saying it would not be part of an illegitimate process where the ANC abused its majority. The DA and a handful of opposition parties were left to vote 99 yes, against a formidable 225 ANC majority voting no.

7. November 2016: Zuma allowed the state to be captured
The DA persevered with another vote of no confidence after the Public Protector report into state capture, which compromised president Zuma and a number of ministers.

The DA pleaded with ANC MPs to vote for South Africa, not Zuma. The ANC dismissed this and said the motion was premature because the report had not yet been properly investigated, and the Public Protector made no findings against the president.

With the most opposition votes since 2010, 126 member voted yes to the motion of no confidence in Zuma but the ANC majority saw that 214 members voted no.

Everyone said the solution was the secret ballot. Opposition parties said the introduction of a secret ballot would allow ANC members to ‘vote with the consciences’ without the fear of facing repercussions for breaking loyalty to the party.

8. August 2018: Zuma is corrupt and unfit to hold office
Mbete finally agreed to a secret ballot last year when the DA tabled a motion of no confidence in the president. Spurred by the president’s corruption with the Gupta family and the economic downgrades the country suffered, DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who tabled the motion, urged MPs to act “courageously” and vote Zuma out. He said this vote was not about political parties, but about the people of South Africa.

Even the secret ballot could not take Zuma out. A majority of 201 yes votes was required to remove Zuma as president. Only 177 voted yes to the motion of no confidence, 198 MPs no. Nine MPs abstained from voting.

9.  February 2018: Zuma is corrupt and unfit to address the State of the Nation

The EFF put forward a request for a motion of no confidence in Zuma by secret ballot on 3 February which was scheduled for Thursday 15 February. The ANC said it supported the motion of no confidence in the former president and said it could not wait any longer for Zuma to resign. This came after Zuma refused to resign when the party recalled him on Tuesday. But Zuma quit while he was still on top and announced his resignation the night before. What a party pooper.

We can arguably say Zuma survived nine motions of no confidence against him.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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