Johannesburg - A witch-hunt has been unleashed to expose the ANC MPs who voted for the removal of President Jacob Zuma during the watershed secret ballot in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Zuma’s supporters, emboldened by his narrow escape from being booted out during a motion of no confidence vote, want the “sell-outs” to be thrown out of the party.
The Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association told The Star on Wednesday that they were shocked to see so many MPs voting against the party line and were shaken by the outcome.
It was the first time in the history of South Africa’s young democracy that ANC MPs had voted with the opposition for the removal of their sitting president.
With the ANC elective conference looming in December, it was becoming clear that the results of the motion would be used to corner Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s supporters, who gained an edge in the succession race during the party’s recent policy conference.
But ANC tripartite alliance partners the SACP and Cosatu, and ANC headquarters Luthuli House, warned on Wednesday against a witch-hunt.
Some of the ruling party’s structures, Zuma’s acolytes and at least one cabinet minister have called for action to be taken against the MPs who defied the ANC.
Of the 384 MPs who cast their votes by secret ballot, 177 voted in favour of Zuma’s removal, 198 rejected the motion, and there were nine abstentions.
This means as many as 35 ANC MPs could have voted “with their conscience” and defied their organisation’s orders to reject the motion.
Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association chairperson and Deputy Minister of Defence Kebby Maphatsoe said they were shaken by the result.
“To be honest, we were very shocked to see so many (ANC) members of Parliament voting for the motion. I knew about 13 (ANC) MPs who were not going to vote with us. Others knew of 35 MPs. But I never expected such a big number,” he said.
Maphatsoe said it would be difficult to identify the culprits because they had voted by secret ballot.
“History will catch up with them, they will be known one day. But we do have our suspects, such as Dr Makhosi Khoza, Mondli Gungubele, Pravin Gordhan and Derek Hanekom,” he said.
All the ANC MPs identified by Maphatsoe had publicly declared they would vote “with their conscience” and had publicly called on Zuma to step down.
“They acted against the instructions of the ANC, even after we had received an 11th-hour briefing about the way we should vote.
“The ANC must take disciplinary action against them and remove them from Parliament. We can’t have people who defy party instructions,” said Maphatsoe, who is a known Zuma ally.
He added that it was clear for everyone to see that the ANC caucus in Parliament was divided.
Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu has accused ANC MPs who voted with the opposition of having sold out and urged that action be taken against them.
ANC Youth League secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza said those who had voted for Zuma’s removal would be “identified, suspended and removed from the ANC”.
When asked how that would be achieved, since the vote was secret, he said: “Yes it was a secret vote, but we are going to kickstart organisational processes to identify and deal with all those who voted with opposition forces.”
Gungubele, the former mayor of Ekurhuleni, said it was merely a rumour that MPs who voted with the opposition would be identified and dealt with.
“The vote was conducted by secret ballot so that your vote is secret. I’m a leader in the organisation, and if I was going to be disciplined, I would have known that already,” he said.
Khoza, who comes from Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, said she would respond “extensively” on Thursday.
ANC KZN spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli said ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and the party’s national executive committee (NEC) had a responsibility to lead the process of identifying those who went against the party’s decision.
He said Mantashe had given “instructions” to the ANC caucus hours before the vote took place, telling MPs to reject the motion.
“The NEC must lead all of us in this regard because we have done our part with MPs who are behaving like Makhosi Khoza. Gauteng has done its part to call Mondli Gungubele to order,” said Ntuli.
However, ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa dismissed reports of a witch-hunt.
“It was a secret ballot; we don’t know who voted what. A secret ballot is about exercising your own right.”
He said the governing party would not respond to "leagues and factions" because they were an organisation.
“Our submission to the Speaker was: ‘We will support any decision you take, secret or not’.”
Acting SACP spokesperson Mhlekwa Nxumalo said that instead of going on a witch-hunt to find out who voted against the party, the ANC should work harder at ensuring there was unity.
Nxumalo’s sentiments were echoed by Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini, who also warned against tracking down those who had voted against Zuma.
“The ANC must look into this matter without emotions. There should be no witch-hunt.
"The party needs to face the perception and reality that they are not united and work at fixing that.” - Additional reporting by Tebogo Monama