President Jacob Zuma might have survived the biggest challenge to his presidency through a narrowly defeated vote of no confidence but his hell ride is far from over.
With multiple legal challenges heading his way in a few weeks and pressure building against the state capture network‚ Zuma will be looking to claw back some political ground in order to placate his detractors inside and outside the ANC.
The most obvious way to do so would be to fire Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana‚ who is expected to be arrested for assaulting a woman at a Johannesburg restaurant at the weekend.
Speaking at the official Women’s Day celebration at Galeshewe in Kimberley on Wednesday‚ Zuma said nobody was above the law when it came to crimes against women. He said the South African Police Service had been directed to treat crimes against women and children as priority cases.
But with public outrage mounting about the severity of the assault‚ charging Manana would clearly be insufficient to demonstrate government’s commitment to dealing harshly with women abusers.
If Zuma keeps Manana on as deputy minister while he is facing assault charges‚ it would undermine the government’s stance on gender violence. It would also expose as superficial his backing of a woman candidate to replace him as ANC leader – supposedly to advance the lot of women in society.
But if Zuma is to make changes to the executive‚ he has the opportunity to gain some approval by booting out others who are tainted by poor performance and compromised by state capture allegations.
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane would be the most obvious contender for being thrown under the bus as he ticks both boxes and has been an unmitigated disaster for the mining sector.
But Zuma will also be mindful that he has a diminishing circle of loyal supporters‚ particularly after so many ANC MPs defied the party line and chose either to vote in favour of the motion of no confidence or abstained from voting.
Zuma would also need his ardent defenders to step up their game as the legal front opens against him with two matters in court in September.
These are the Economic Freedom Fighters’ application for an impeachment process against Zuma and the hearing before the Supreme Court of Appeal on the Spy Tapes saga.
In October Zuma’s application for a review of the Public Protector’s report on state capture will be heard.
On Wednesday‚ Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane announced that his party would bring a motion to dissolve parliament so that early elections could be held.
He said a new government was needed in light of the crisis facing the country.
But Zuma appears to be unchastened by the outcome of Tuesday’s vote and the volatility within in the ANC and in the country over his leadership.
The president would still like the world to believe that he is the victim of a dark conspiracy‚ claiming that people were paid to vote against him.
He told ANC supporters outside parliament on Tuesday night: “I am happy that those who took the money bayodla abantwana (their kids will eat)‚ forget about them. If they give you money‚ take it. Pay for the schools‚ and vote right‚ that is the principle.” The fallout from the vote continues with some of Zuma’s supporters looking to hunt down those who rebelled against the party line.
ANC speakers tried to frame support for the motion as evidence of “regime change” and a “coup d’etat”.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the aim of the motion was to “destabilise‚ subvert and undermine our democratic order”.
His Small Business counterpart Lindiwe Zulu said it was “unacceptable” that some ANC MPs voted with the opposition.
The internal revolt could also have repercussions for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma‚ who is the president’s preferred candidate to succeed him in the ANC.
With more senior leaders in the ANC standing up against Zuma‚ Dlamini-Zuma’s bid for the presidency will likely be in choppy waters.
Judging by the motley crew of dubious characters that gathered around Zuma on the stage outside parliament on Tuesday night‚ the circle around the Zumas is certainly shrinking.