JOHANNESBURG – An outspoken African National Congress (ANC) backbencher who is calling for President Jacob Zuma’s resignation was charged by a branch of the party on Wednesday with bringing it into disrepute.
Makhosi Khoza has made clear she will break ranks with the ruling party by voting for a no-confidence motion in Zuma on Aug. 8 and has become a prominent figure for denouncing the president while being a sitting member of parliament.
The ANC KwaZulu-Natal branch said it was pushing to fast-track her case to be handled by the party’s national leadership within 14 days – which could bring it before the no confidence vote as a demonstration of party discipline.
It was not immediately clear if any censure could bar her from taking part, but her case could stir further anger against Zuma, who has survived eight previous no-confidence votes.
She dismissed the party charges as persecution.
She aired her criticism of Zuma at a conference of civil society groups, unions and business leaders pushing for his removal after eight years in office.
The 75-year-old’s time in power has been marked by economic stagnation and scandal, including allegations of graft involving his friends the Guptas, a family of Indian-born businessmen. Both Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing.
South Africa slipped into a recession in March and unemployment stands at its highest in 14 years.
The KwaZulu-Natal ANC spokesman Mdumiseni Ntuli did not give details of what disciplinary measures could be taken against Khoza.
Khoza, a 47-year-old Zulu academic, said in statement the charges were proof the ANC no longer tolerated dissent.
“I’m being persecuted because I can no longer toe the party line,” Khoza said. “I cannot accept corruption, looting, a disregard for the people who brought us to power and the propping up of growing kleptocracy.”
The speaker of parliament is expected to decide whether the motion against Zuma will be held by secret ballot.
Opposition parties say the motion would be more likely to succeed if held in secret, allowing for anonymous dissent.
Opponents led by the main opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA), which is behind the motion, believe a cabinet reshuffle that led to the dismissal of finance minister Pravin Gordhan may have angered enough ANC members to desert Zuma.
The ANC has 249 seats in the 400 seat parliament and the opposition controls 151 seats, so it would only take 50 ANC lawmakers backing the opposition to vote out Zuma and his entire cabinet.