Divided ANC left even weaker after Zuma hangs on

African National Congress supporters jubilates outside parliament in Cape Town, South Africa after President Jacob Zuma survived a no-confidence vote. Picture: AP Photo/Mark Wessels Pool
African National Congress supporters jubilates outside parliament in Cape Town, South Africa after President Jacob Zuma survived a no-confidence vote. Picture: AP Photo/Mark Wessels Pool
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Minutes after South African President Jacob Zuma narrowly escaped a no-confidence vote this week, he was singing and dancing outside parliament with a throng of supporters from his African National Congress party.

That celebratory mood faded fast.

Although Mr Zuma survived the most serious attempt yet on his leadership, allegations of corruption and poor governance have significantly weakened the ANC, the once potent party of Nelson Mandela, observers said.

The ANC, instrumental in ending South Africa’s apartheid regime of racial discrimination, has ruled since the country’s first all-race elections in 1994. But its support has been eroded
since Mr Zuma came to power in 2009 as South Africans have vented their frustration at the ballot box over high unemployment and a lack of basic services such as water and electricity.

In a striking sign of dissent in the party, more than 25 ANC members supported the opposition’s move this week to vote out Mr Zuma or did not show up to vote. Of the 384 votes cast in an unprecedented secret ballot, 177 were in favour of unseating him and 198 were against, with nine abstentions.

That public display of rebellion also highlighted party members’ bruising battle to succeed Mr Zuma, who will step down as ANC leader in December.

A steady stream of ANC members and anti-apartheid
veterans have urged him to step aside before then, as anger grows among voters over scandals that included millions of pounds of public
money being spent on his 
private home.

Mr Zuma will have more damaging moments in the coming months, with courts set to hear a bid by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party to impeach him, as well as Mr Zuma’s own appeal to drop nearly 800 charges of alleged corruption, racketeering and fraud against him.

The developments have chipped away at the ANC’s decades-old moral authority,
while pro- and anti-Zuma 
factions in the party fight for control and prepare for the 2019 national elections.

Susan Booysen, a professor of politics at the University of Witwatersrand, said: “The ANC works on the assumption it can pull together a credible campaign in the future and that the core of the ANC is still there.”

But that is not a certainty, she said, adding: “The ANC is 
really, really in a deep crisis.”

Its vote share dropped from nearly 70 per cent in the 2004 national elections to just over 62 per cent in 2014. Then the party
had its worst-ever showing in the 2016 local elections.