Most opposition parties and their supporters have probably been encouraged by the open defiance they have seen from members of the ANC’s top leadership structures this weekend – and so they should be.
The public utterances of people like Gwede Mantashe, Cyril Ramaphosa and even Zweli Mkhize carry a considerable amount of weight, and to some degree they represent the mood that currently exists within sections of the governing party.
There is a level of dissatisfaction with the leadership decisions being taken by President Jacob Zuma – the actions of Derek Hanekom last year are proof of this. Then there is the small matter of a struggle stalwart’s funeral that President Zuma was asked not to attend last week.
The tension between Zuma and former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has also become very public – before Zuma dropped his Cabinet bombshell last week.
There is clearly resistance from within, but the jury is out on just how meaningful that resistance is. Recent history dictates that those who are bold enough to take Zuma on – in one form or the other – get shunted into the political wilderness rather swiftly.
So, the level of the optimism shown by South Africans challenging Zuma’s leadership is still somewhat misguided, despite the numbers of the discontent within the governing party seemingly increasing, because without a significant conversion from within the ANC, every effort made by the opposition movements are futile.
Anybody who is honest enough and practical knows that a motion of ‘no confidence’ or an impeachment motion put forward by the opposition parties in the National Assembly will not succeed.
Similar motions have not succeeded in the past and they are unlikely to succeed in the immediate future.
To the optimists out there, the big question is why?
Well, the short answer to the question is that the opposition parties in the National Assembly simply do not have the numbers. The ANC has 249 seats in the National Assembly – which is well known – and the opposition parties account for 151 seats.
For a motion of no confidence to pass, 50 members of the ANC’s parliamentary caucus would need to support it. This is also well known.
Then there is the small matter of the support that the ANC enjoys from parties like the National Freedom Party – which has been surprisingly loyal – and the African People’s Convention (aka Themba Godi).
The jury is also out on how the Pan-Africanist Congress will vote, were such an option be presented to it again. The reality is that the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters will need to do a considerable amount of rallying and/or lobbying to get the attention of some MPs on the governing party’s benches.
Converting those who do succumb to the charms of Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema won’t actually be that difficult, but asking them to knife Jacob Zuma from the front will be nigh impossible.
The ANC MPs are all human after all, and getting them to publicly admit that they have been wrong about Zuma or that their loyalty towards the leadership of the ANC has been misguided is also probably asking too much.
While the opposition parties have been throwing the kitchen sink at Zuma, whether it be in the National Assembly or in the courts, South Africa’s Head of State has been quietly consolidating his political base.
So, even if there are some who are prepared to defy Zuma in the National Assembly, there can’t be many of them. Cyril Ramaphosa probably knows this, the South African Communist Party probably knows this.
That is why they have not taken any definitive steps themselves already. All they can do, at this juncture, is speak out. Resign and that is the end of it!