What matters inside the African National Congress, the party that governs South Africa, is not necessarily what matters outside it. This obvious point is missed by much of the commentary on the latest unsuccessful motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma – and in much discussion of South African politics.

One result of ignoring this reality is the claim that the vote seriously weakened Zuma because several dozen ANC members of parliament supported the motion or abstained.

This was the first time some ANC MPs supported a motion of no confidence in an ANC president. But, while Zuma came within 21 votes of losing in parliament, he was probably backed by 80% or more of the ANC caucus. Most of the votes against him were cast by opposition MPs, who do not have a say in who is ANC president, not ANC members, who do.

Unless parliament passes a motion of no confidence in him, which is not on the cards any time soon, his future depends on whether he was weakened in the ANC, not parliament.

Within the ANC, Zuma’s future is not the absorbing fixation it is outside it. ….more