The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, celebrated with his supporters in Cape Town, this week, after he survived a no-confidence motion supported by Anglican leaders.
On Monday, Anglican leaders joined a coalition of civil society and faith groups on the #UniteBehind march through the city, calling for South African politicians to vote in favour of the no-confidence motion. A message from the Archbishop of Capetown, Dr Thabo Makgoba, a vocal critic of President Zuma, was read out.
“It is more important to follow your conscience than to follow the dictates of your party, your colleagues or your friends,” he wrote. “Upon the guidance of your conscience depend 55 million lives. Your conscience will determine which road South Africa travels for the rest of your lifetime and those of your children and grandchildren.”
Preaching at Easter this year — after the President had fired the country’s finance minister and deputy finance minister — Dr Makgoba said that “personal interests, corruption, private gain, entitlement, a vicious contempt for the poor and the common good, a culture of blatant lies and cronyism — and possibly worse — dominate our public landscape.”
In May, the South African Council of Churches issued a report saying that a “power elite” had formed around President Zuma which was “systematically siphoning the assets of the State.” This week’s motion, prompted by repeated allegations of corruption, was lost by 198 votes to 177. It is the eighth attempt to pass a vote of no-confidence in President Zuma. The number indicates that at least 26 members of his own party, the ANC, voted against him. He is due to step down as the leader of the party in December.
Last year, a South Africa court ruled that he should face 786 counts of corruption; he has appealed. At Christmas, Dr Makgoba rejected a suggestion by President Zuma that he stay out of politics. “You would be forgiven for thinking that you had climbed into a time machine and gone back 30 years into the past, when apartheid presidents said the same thing,” he observed.