South Africa’s ex-leader Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday waded into a no-confidence debate against President Jacob Zuma, urging lawmakers to set aside political affiliation during next week’s vote.
A parliamentary motion of no confidence in the president is due on April 18 following the controversial sacking of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan last month.
Zuma has easily survived previous such votes against him, thanks to the majority the ruling African National Congress enjoys in parliament.
But in an article that extensively quoted the country’s constitution, Mbeki said it is "obvious and logical" that lawmakers "must act in parliament as the voice of the people, not the voice of the political parties to which they belong.”
“It may be that the current controversy has‚ at last, imposed on our country the opportunity and obligation the better to define the constitutional and moral relationship between the people and their elected representatives,” he said in an article published by The Star daily.
Gordhan’s removal has triggered unprecedented criticism from ANC leaders, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as well as the party’s chief whip, its treasurer and several ANC allies.
But days later, after a party meeting, the ANC threw its weight behind Zuma and vowed to shoot down the no-confidence motion brought by the opposition.
Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela as president in 1999, was himself recalled by the ANC in September 2008 before the end of his second term and Zuma took over.
But Zuma’s presidency has been dogged by corruption scandals and has widened divisions in the party and heightened calls for his resignation.
Tens of thousands of protesters marched through South African cities on Friday demanding Zuma step down.
More anti-Zuma demonstrations are planned for Wednesday in the capital Pretoria.
Zuma, who turns 75 on Wednesday, is due to step down as head of the ANC in December, and as president ahead of the 2019 general election.