A week after President Jacob Zuma appeared to have weathered calls to resign, former leaders of the ANC are ratcheting up pressure on him to quit after his shock cabinet purge prompted two ratings agencies to downgrade the nation’s credit to junk.
Former President Thabo Mbeki, in an opinion piece in The Star, joined another former leader, Kgalema Motlanthe, in urging ANC lawmakers to vote with their conscience on an opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion in parliament on 18 April.
Veterans of the party, including all those jailed with Nelson Mandela who are still alive, called for a national conference to discuss South Africa’s worst political crisis in a decade.
“The crisis and those who have created it reaches deep into the very fabric of our society and is based on an unquenchable need for power and money,” the veterans said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement.
The public criticism from ANC officials and supporters came a day before opposition parties and civil rights groups plan to hold demonstrations in Pretoria to pressure Zuma to resign. The so-called National Day of Action protests are scheduled to coincide with Zuma’s 75th birthday.
Zuma’s decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister and make 19 other changes to his administration on 31 March drew widespread criticism, prompted S&P Global Ratings to downgrade the nation’s international credit rating to junk and weakened the rand. Fitch Ratings followed suit on Friday, sending the currency to its weakest level since January.
“The contract between the ANC and the people of South Africa has unravelled,” Zwelinzima Vavi, the former secretary-general of trade union federation Cosatu, an ANC ally, told reporters on Tuesday in Pretoria. “South Africa is facing a political crisis that is playing itself out in the economy, affecting the working class and the poor in the most unbelievable way.”
Tens of thousands of people marched on 7 April in major cities including Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town to demand that Zuma quit. Zuma criticised the protests on Monday, saying that some of demonstrators were inspired by racism.
Zuma, who’s due to step down as ANC leader in December and whose term as the nation’s president ends in 2019, has survived a series of corruption scandals and presided over the party’s worst electoral performance since the end of apartheid in 1994 in municipal elections in August.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said last week that no ANC member would vote against Zuma in the no-confidence vote. To pass, the motion requires a simple majority of the 400 seats in the national assembly where the ANC holds a 62% majority.
Makhosi Khoza, an ANC lawmaker, criticised the party’s call to rally behind Zuma to preserve unity in the 105-year-old organisation.
“We are directed to maintain unity at all cost even if leads us to the ditch,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “We are instructed to follow directionless directives without questioning or raising the risks, concerns for the route we are taking even if it leads us to the wasteland.” — (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP