Cheers erupted from the ANC caucus in parliament as speaker Baleka Mbete read the results of the secret ballot vote of no confidence against Jacob Zuma. 177 for. 198 against. The irony is that this group of jubilant souls were only celebrating their own demise.
To say the opposition lost would be technically accurate, but not at all a fair reflection of the bigger picture. The vote of no confidence failed, but the opposition won. You see, this was always a win-win situation. The very idea of the no-confidence vote was to put the ANC between a rock and a hard place. That is why we have had 8 of them already. Each time the ANC votes to keep Jacob Zuma in power they tie themselves ever closer to their greatest liability and alienate those who "love the ANC but hate Zuma." Every time the ANC caucus puts their weight behind Zuma they lose seats in the 2019 election.
I'm sure most ANC MPs know this, but are more concerned about saving themselves from the whip of party discipline than saving the party from the wrath of the voters and the mire of immorality. Though sometimes I do wonder.
On the other hand, voting Zuma out would also be a dangerous road and additionally, it would be an unpredictable one. No one really knows what would have happened had the required 50 ANC MP's broken ranks and had the president removed. It is far from inconceivable that it would cause an irreparable rift and possibly a split in the party. Far less likely, it would have been the turning point for the ANC to course correct and repair its once honourable reputation. But those possibilities are just what-ifs now. The ruling party has chosen the slow poison.
The only way for the ANC to escape this trap would be to recall Zuma itself. This would allow them to show some semblance of morality while not bending to the will of the opposition, though at this point it may even be too late for such a move to still be considered a show of strength. But this hasn't yet and certainly will not happen until at least the electoral conference in December. There are too many people high up on his side who would go down with him.
The country needs Jacob Zuma gone. But Jacob Zuma is not the extent of the problem. The ANC is the problem. You cannot separate Zuma from the ANC, and the secret ballot vote proved that. Zuma is not unique, he is a representation of what is happening in the rest of his party. Most of the ANC are as morally decayed as Zuma. If it were not so, he would not be in power. The whole party needs to go.
So while the DA and the EFF publicly mourn the retaining of President Zuma, privately they will be celebrating another hole fired into the sinking ship of the ruling party, all while its hopeless crew drown, shackled to their own pride.