South Africa's Ruling Party Abandons President Jacob Zuma

Feb 14, 2018
Originally published on February 14, 2018 8:16 am
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When President Richard Nixon left office in 1974, a vital nudge toward the door came from his own party. Nixon was told that few of his fellow Republicans would defend him any longer against impeachment proceedings, and he ultimately resigned. Today, the president of South Africa has been told that his political party is abandoning him. Amid allegations of corruption, leaders of the African National Congress told Jacob Zuma he must quit by the end of today. For more on this, we're joined by NPR Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Hi there, Ofeibea.


INSKEEP: So in South African politics, how significant is it that Jacob Zuma has lost his party?

QUIST-ARCTON: Huge. And let me just say right at this minute, Steve, it appears that President Jacob Zuma is speaking on the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation. So far, he has said that his party, the African National Congress, has not given him real substantial reasons why he should leave power. But the ANC has obviously made its decision. We have many senior leaders saying that it is preparing for a parliamentary motion of no confidence against President Zuma on Thursday if he hasn't resigned. We'll see by the end of the speech whether he'll come to that or not. But it has all happened because President Zuma has, many people say, brought the ANC into disrepute, the fact that he is...

INSKEEP: Just so that I understand, if there's this vote of no confidence, is that like an impeachment and conviction in the United States? He would legally have to go?

QUIST-ARCTON: Almost, not quite. Impeachment is another process, but it is hugely humiliating for Zuma, who has been an ANC stalwart since he was a very young man. Now, his party wanted this all to happen in-house, that they would talk to Zuma - which they've been doing for a couple of weeks now - and that he would graciously resign. That has not happened. This is a man who is a fighter. He is a political survivor. He is not going to go down without a fight. But what the ANC doesn't want is that the opposition, which has also called its own motion of no confidence, should lead the way. They want this done quietly, calmly, and it is not happening. President Zuma is not playing ball.

INSKEEP: Let's explore what exactly it is that Zuma is alleged to have done, the very question he seems to have asked his party leaders. And there is an occasion to do that because we're told that there have been police raids today against a family known as the Guptas, business people who are linked to the president. Who are they, and what is it that they allegedly did with the president?

QUIST-ARCTON: Let me just say that both Jacob Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing. It's what South Africans are calling state capture. I think in American lingo, that would be influence peddling, the fact that President Zuma stands accused - but allegations, not charges - of selling South Africa down the Suwanee to the Guptas, this Indian-South African family that is hugely wealthy.

Now, the Hawks - and they're the elite police investigative unit - raided the very posh Saxonwold home of the Guptas overnight and are apparently - we're being told that they were looking for whatever evidence they can find because this family has been the flashpoint for national anger, fury over corruption and allegations of state capture, you know, state enterprises being almost given to the Guptas. So these are the sorts of allegations that President Zuma is facing and why his party now wants him out.

INSKEEP: Saxon walled (ph), so it's like a walled compound that was raided...


INSKEEP: Oh, Saxonwold, I see.

QUIST-ARCTON: But it's a really expensive part of Johannesburg.

INSKEEP: I see. I see. So it's a neighborhood. OK.

QUIST-ARCTON: But, you know, Steve - Steve, let me just say that this is hugely important. Zuma is not just anyone. Not only is he the national president, he is somebody who still has support in South Africa because of his anti-apartheid credentials. You know, so there are people within the party who still support him and people within the country. But he's become a liability to the ANC. They're going to elections next year, and they have to have him out if they are going to win again. It's a huge development in South Africa.

INSKEEP: Ofeibea, thanks very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.