Tuesday, April 05, 2016

ANC Seen Saving South Africa's Zuma in Impeachment Vote

The African National Congress has given President Jacob Zuma the support he needs to survive an impeachment vote called after South Africa's top court ruled he had breached the constitution.

Parliament will later on Tuesday debate and vote on a motion to remove Zuma from office after the constitutional court ruled last week that the president failed to uphold the constitution by ignoring an order to repay some of the $16 million in state funds spent on renovating his private home.

The motion, launched by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), is likely to fail in the assembly where the ANC enjoys a comfortable majority of 62 percent of the 400 seats.

To unseat Zuma, the opposition needs two-thirds of the vote, including the support of more than 100 ANC legislators.

The rand ZAR=D3 weakened by almost one percent, partly on political risk jitters ahead of the vote.

Zuma had already secured the backing of top ANC officials on Friday, after apologizing for failing to repay some of the money spent on his residence.

"The president has apologized and that's the humility that is necessary for any leader," ANC General Secretary Gwede Mantashe told 702 Talk Radio on Monday, after senior party members met to discuss Zuma.

Mantashe said he expected ANC members of parliament to defeat the motion against their leader.

He also dismissed concerns that the scandal would affect the party's popularity at municipal elections later this year.

"If it makes sense for them and gives them public attention, then fine, we can't stop them from doing it," Mantashe said, referring to the motion against Zuma.


On March 1, Zuma survived his second no-confidence vote in a year over what the DA party called his reckless handling of the economy.

That vote came after Zuma was widely criticized in December when he changed finance ministers twice in a week, sending the rand plummeting and alarming investors.

The latest scandal is arguably the biggest to hit the president, who has fended off accusations of corruption, influence peddling and even rape before he took office in 2009.

In late March, the ANC backed Zuma after a party summit following claims of political interference by his business friends, the Gupta family.

Zuma has insisted his ties with the Guptas are above board, but the opposition demanded his resignation after senior officials accused the family of wielding undue influence in government appointments and activities. The Guptas say they are pawns in a plot to oust Zuma.

Investors fear further political uncertainty could hasten a credit ratings downgrade, potentially into "junk" territory, and raise borrowing costs in Africa's most industrialized economy.

"The party's top leaders have all voiced their support for the president, who is more popular among party members than he is among the general public," John Ashbourne, London-based Africa economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.

"Even those with reservations about Mr Zuma himself may fear the effect of a divisive succession battle, especially in the lead-up to closely-fought municipal elections later this year."

(Additional reporting Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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