JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s parliament will vote on a motion of no confidence in embattled President Jacob Zuma on Feb. 22, the parliamentary speaker said Friday, in an escalation of pressure on the leader to resign after a series of scandals.
Parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete decided to hold the vote in response to a request from the Economic Freedom Fighters, an opposition party that has often disrupted proceedings in parliament because of corruption allegations against the president, Mbete’s office said.
While Zuma has survived similar votes in parliament, many former allies in the ruling African National Congress party have since abandoned him and are pushing for his replacement by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the new party leader who in recent days has delivered hard-hitting messages about the fight against corruption.
ANC leaders have been considering terms of an early exit for Zuma but previously have been uncomfortable with the idea of an opposition-sponsored vote of no confidence that would embarrass the ruling party. On the other hand, Zuma has become a liability and many members want the president to leave soon so the ANC, in power since the end of apartheid in 1994, can rebuild ahead of 2019 elections.
The timing of the motion of no confidence later this month took into account a busy parliamentary schedule, including a Feb. 8 state of the nation address to be delivered by the president, according to Mbete’s office.
The speaker turned down a request from another opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, to postpone the address until the ruling party had resolved its internal conflict and a new president was in place.
Zuma is a “lame-duck president” and he shouldn’t address the nation on Feb. 8 because “neither he nor his administration will be around to implement any of the policies or plans he announces,” the Democratic Alliance said.
Zuma has been embroiled in scandals, including multi-million-dollar upgrades to his private home with state money and his association with the Guptas, a business family accused of looting state enterprises and influencing Cabinet ministers for their own benefit. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing, though the president paid back some money for the home upgrades after the Constitutional Court ruled against him.
In a separate case, Zuma’s lawyers this week submitted arguments to prosecutors about why he shouldn’t be prosecuted for corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago. The charges had been thrown out but a court reinstated them last year.
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