S. African MPs to cast secret ballots on Zuma

AFP , Tuesday 8 Aug 2017

South African President Jacob Zuma faces a no-confidence vote by secret ballot in parliament Tuesday, with opponents hoping that discontented ANC lawmakers could oust him from office.

Criticism of Zuma from within the African National Congress (ANC) has grown over corruption scandals and economic woes, and the celebrated party of Nelson Mandela has declined sharply at the polls.

But the ANC -- which holds a large majority in parliament -- said it expected its members to easily defeat the no-confidence motion.

Several opposition parties led thousands of anti-Zuma protesters to the national assembly in Cape Town ahead of the parliamentary session due to begin at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT).

"ANC MPs now have no excuse. They must use their vote... to remove Jacob Zuma," the main opposition Democratic Alliance party said after the speaker of parliament made a surprise decision Monday to hold the ballot in secret.

Zuma has survived several previous parliamentary votes that were held without secret balloting.

A 201-vote majority would be needed to remove him from power, and the ANC holds 249 seats in the 400-seat parliament. His cabinet would also be forced to resign.

"Mbete's decision was made knowing that Zuma will be secure," said Darias Jonker of the New York-based Eurasia political analysis consultancy.

"The vast majority of ANC MPs are not willing to risk the stability of the party in order to remove Zuma in this fashion."

Zuma, 75, is due to step down as head of the ANC in December, and as president before the 2019 general election -- lessening pressure for his party to trigger imminent change.

The secret ballot has been subject to a long legal battle waged by opposition parties, who hope that ANC lawmakers will now be emboldened to vote against him without fear of intimidation.

But ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu told reporters Tuesday that lawmakers would "fight for the unity of our party".

"We will vote against this motion," he said. "We can't vote with the opposition to remove our own government."

Mthembu last week acknowledged recent criticism of the party, including the impact of a cabinet reshuffle in March when respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan was replaced with a Zuma loyalist.

Gordhan's sacking led to a string of downgrades to South Africa's credit rating as well as causing the rand currency to tumble.

Public support for the ANC, which swept to power under Mandela in the first non-racial elections in 1994, slipped to 55 percent in last year's local polls -- its worst-ever result.

A handful of MPs, including Gordhan, have joined calls from anti-apartheid veterans and trade unions for Zuma to resign, as South Africa endures record unemployment and a recession.

Zuma has been engulfed by corruption allegations since coming to office in 2009.

A court last year found him guilty of violating the constitution after he refused to repay taxpayers' money used to refurbish his private rural house.

He has been accused of being in the sway of the wealthy Gupta business family, allegedly granting them influence over government appointments, contracts and state-owned businesses.

He is also fighting a court order that could reinstate almost 800 corruption charges against him over a multi-billion dollar arms deal in the 1990s.

Zuma is seen as favouring his ex-wife, former African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him ahead of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Search Keywords:
Short link: