South African President Jacob Zuma was set to learn Tuesday whether he still enjoys the loyalty of his African National Congress as Parliament geared up for an unprecedented secret ballot on whether it still has confidence in his rule.
While Zuma has survived at least five parliamentary votes seeking to remove him from office since becoming president in 2009, never before have Parliament members been allowed to vote anonymously.
Zuma’s ANC dominates the Parliament with 249 out of 400 seats and for the motion to pass, at least 50 party members would have to defect to the opposition — something that has never happened before in a party that defeated South Africa’s apartheid system and is known for its loyalty.
Opposition to Zuma’s rule, however, has been growing amid revelations of corruption and influence peddling, even as the economy has faltered and unemployment has remained stubbornly high in a country marked by deep inequalities of wealth.
In a debate before the vote, Zuma’s supporters said his ouster could send the country into a leadership crisis. His critics told fellow lawmakers that it was a moment to take a stand.
“Take our country back,” said Mmusi Maimane, head of the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance.
Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete shocked South Africans Monday when she announced her decision to allow the vote to proceed on a secret ballot, which would allow party members to vote against their leader outside the public spotlight.
“I understand and accept that a motion of no confidence in the president is a very important matter, a potent tool toward holding the president to account,” she said at a press briefing Monday in Cape Town. She did not take questions from reporters.
The no confidence vote, she said, “constitutes one of the severest political consequences imaginable” and her decision to allow the vote to proceed anonymously is “about putting the resilience of our democratic institution to test.”
SOURCE: Peter Granitz
The Washington Post