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S. African Parliament to Vote Secretly in No-Confidence Motion on President

  • Anita Powell

South Africa's ruling party president Jacob Zuma addresses party delegates, during the African national Congress policy conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 30, 2017.

A vote of no-confidence in South African President Jacob Zuma will take place Tuesday via secret ballot.

The vote against the increasingly unpopular and scandal-plagued leader will mark the eighth parliamentary attempt to remove him from power.

After spending more than six weeks deliberating the matter, National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete announced her decision Monday, taking 12 minutes to read it before a packed news conference.

“I therefore determine that voting on the motion of no-confidence in the president on the 8th of August 2017, will be by secret ballot,” she told the journalists. Mbete then refused to take their questions.

Protesters call for the removal of president Jacob Zuma in a march on Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. South Africa's parliament will vote by secret ballot on a motion of no confidence on South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, the legislative body's speaker announced Monday.
Protesters call for the removal of president Jacob Zuma in a march on Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. South Africa's parliament will vote by secret ballot on a motion of no confidence on South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, the legislative body's speaker announced Monday.

Opposition parties had asked for the ballot to be held in secret in a bid to embolden critics within the famously disciplined ANC to turn against their leader.

Several high-profile party stalwarts, including the former finance minister whom Zuma fired in March, have publicly called on him to step down. Zuma’s unpopular decision to fire Pravin Gordhan was immediately followed by a downgrade of South Africa’s credit rating to “junk” status.

South Africans make no secret of their feelings

Meanwhile, thousands of South Africans made no secret of their wishes as they took to the streets to defend or oppose Zuma. On Monday, thousands of Zuma critics marched outside parliament in Cape Town to demand his ouster. A pro-Zuma protest is planned for Tuesday.

Also Monday, in the city of Durban in Zuma’s home province, dozens of traditional and faith leaders gathered to appeal to God to save the president. Bishop TB Ngcobo of the National Interfaith Council of South Africa said he thinks a successful no-confidence vote will bring further instability.

“We can’t afford now more scandal in this country,” he said. “So people, they must let the president, Zuma, finish the term and then move away and then get the new (president). Because if you can just remove the president now by these processes, it can happen before that president that is coming -- they are going to do this again, this is going to be a trend. So we have to stop the trend. Because the trend might take the country into disrepute.”

Some of Zuma’s critics say the nation is already there, mired in long-simmering corruption scandals that put him at the center. Most recently, some 100,000 leaked emails and documents pointed to improper dealings between the president and a wealthy family.

Activist Vuyiseka Dubula of the #UniteBehind coalition spoke to VOA before she led Monday’s anti-Zuma march in Cape Town.

“The current president has no interest in addressing our social issues,” she said. “Instead, we see state resources going into people’s pockets.”

If the motion against Zuma succeeds, he and his entire Cabinet will have to step down; but, whether that happens remains a numbers game. In order for the motion to pass in the 400-member parliament, all 151 opposition representatives will have to vote against him - along with 50 ANC members.

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