President Jacob Zuma faces a no-confidence vote by secret ballot in South African Parliament on Tuesday, as opponents express confidence that lawmakers in his African National Congress, ANC, could vote to oust him from office.
Mr. Zuma, who assumed office in 2009, has faced heavy backlash for alleged corruption and economic mismanagement. He’d defeated eight previous motions of no confidence that since then.
But opposition figures, who are currently holding a protest outside the country’s parliament in Cape Town, say today’s exercise will be different from the previous ones.
This is largely due to the last-minute decision of the Speaker, Baleka Mbete, to conduct the exercise using the secret ballot system as against the open ballot used in the past attempts.
It was believed that Mr. Zuma survived the previous efforts because many of his party members were not courageous enough to openly vote against him.
Mr. Zuma’s African National Congress controls the parliament with 249 seats out of 400. Opposition parties hold the remaining 151 seats.
The opposition would need 50 votes from ANC lawmakers for the no-confidence motion to succeed with a simple majority of 201 votes.
What would happen…
Should Mr. Zuma lose, he would be compelled to resign, alongside members of his cabinet.
Next, Ms. Mbete will assume presidential duties for the next 30 days starting from the date of Mr. Zuma’s resignation, after taking oath of office as acting president.
South African Chief Judge, Mogoeng Mogoeng, will fix a date within the 30 days for the parliament to elect a new president from its members, an exercise that would be presided over by either himself or another judge he would nominate.
After the election, whoever the parliament elects will be the next president.
Outside Cape Town, protesters are also marching in Johannesburg and Pretoria, chanting anti-Zuma slogans.
Echoes of ‘Fire Zuma!” could be heard from the crowd.
Mr. Zuma’s supporters argue for his continued stay in office despite lingering economic crisis. South Africa’s economy is currently in a recession, and its credit rating was downgraded to junk status by rating agency, Standard & Poor’s.
The supporters further argued that since Mr. Zuma was elected by a resounding majority in a democratic system, it was only appropriate that he be allowed to complete his tenure and not be stampeded out of office by the opposition.
The police have cordoned off roads near the parliament building to keep protesters from disrupting activities of workers in the area.
Voting is expected to commence at exactly 2:00 p.m. local time, 1:00 p.m. in Nigeria. PREMIUM TIMES will bring you live updates as soon as the proceeding kicks off. Stay with us!
1.21pm: The Parliament has now commenced with opposition figure Mmusi Maimane making the case for Mr. Zuma’s ouster.
“What is more tragic is that more and more South Africans are finding it difficult to find work…
“If we fail to vote out Jacob Zuma today, history may not forgive us.
I hope there are members in this house who will put politics aside and do what is right for this country.
“So that we can fulfil the aspirations that Mandela and other founding fathers had envisioned.
1.23pm: A lawmaker rose to have Mr. Maimane restricted to only discussing issues of the day, but the Deputy Speaker, who presided over the votes, asked the opposition leader to continue.
Mr. Maimane has led the Democratic Alliance since 2015. Mr. Zuma’s ANC has been dominated government at the centre since the end of apartheid in 1994. Nelson Mandela was elected in 1994 with 62 per cent of the vote.
Mr. Maimane made heavy case for Mr. Zuma’s ouster by appealing to lawmakers across the political spectrum to vote against the president and allow today’s motion to succeed.
1.27pm:A female ANC lawmaker argues against the use of secret ballot system as approved for today’s motion, saying it would allow for money politicians to hijack democracy in South Africa.
She added that the open ballot would allow the people to know how their lawmakers voted in real time rather than being done in secret.
1.30pm: “The ANC rejects this motion with the contempt it deserves” the female ANC lawmaker concluded.
1.35pm: Julius Malema speaks, says vote not against ANC, but against Zuma. He asks ANC lawmakers to support the vote of no confidence.
1.41pm: The female lawmaker is ANC Deputy Chief Whip, Doris Dlakude. She urged the members to vote to retain Zuma in power, saying dissidents will not be allowed to kill the interest of the South African masses.
Julius Malema, the leader of Economic Freedom Fighters, urged his colleages in the parliament to abandon party sentiments and vote Mr. Zuma out, describing the president as the most corrupt person alive in South Africa.
Other parliamentarians are also speaking on the motion…
1.58pm: A lawmaker, Mosouia Lekota, said “don’t vote for anybody who lied to our people and stole their money.”
2.00pm: “The ANC will not yield to the opposition parties, especially yourselves,” says Pule Mabe a member of the ANC.
Mr. Mabe added that President Zuma will lead the charge to establish a judicial commission of inquiry into a series of allegations about looting of state agencies under his watch.
Mr. Mabe says court of public opinion’ should not be used instead of Constitution and rule of law in the debate.
“This motion is nothing but a test of character. We will not be led by the Democratic Alliance,” he added.
“If you fail to remove the president today, then the people will know that the problem is not the president, the problem is the ANC,” an opposition lawmaker said in his contribution.
2.04pm: Phumzile van Damme of the opposition DA asks ANC members not to disappoint millions of their members who want President Zuma kicked out.
2.07pm: Phumzille Van Damme decried the sufferings of the people of South Africa.
“These the people who live in dire poverty,” she said, adding that Zuma’s removal would set the country on the right to recovery and prosperity.
Ms. Van Damme said the parliament has no excuse to reject today’s no-confidence vote against Zuma.
She added that today’s vote is aimed as removing Jacob Zuma as an individual and not his party ANC from power.
2.17pm: The Deputy Speaker issued a final warning to Ms. Van Damme to stop addressing Mr. Zuma as ‘Jacob Zuma’, she must use ‘President Zuma’ or ‘Mr. Zuma’ in order to remain within the confines of House rules.
She would be ruled out of order if she fails to appropriately address the president, the Deputy Speaker said.
Ms. Van Damme corrected herself, accordingly. But not before she fumbled it for one last time. “Sorry, I mean President Zuma,” she said.
Ms. Van Damme concluded her speech with strong case for Mr. Zuma’s ouster.
2.34pm: Julius Malema, during a point of order, described Mr. Zuma as a ‘crook’. He was then compelled by the Deputy Speaker to withdraw the comment or be thrown out.
He withdrew the comment.
The parliament was in a rowdy session for some minutes, with members shouting down at each other.
A female lawmaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, canvassed for the wishes of the ANC as a preeminent South African political entity to prevail at the end of today’s proceeding.
“We should not use other tactics to get rid of a governing party,” she said while making a case for Mr. Zuma’s continued stay in office.
2.42pm: Removing President Zuma is not an option but a must, said Andries Tlouamma, leader of Agang.
He said: “I can’t tolerate this president in this National Assembly anymore. President Zuma is beyond redemption….President Zuma is a weapon of economic destruction.”
He rallied all opposition leaders and members of ANC to join hands and drive Mr. Zuma out.
2.45pm: Themba Godi, a member of African People’s Convention, said: “We will vote in support of good governance and against corruption. We will vote in support of the motion”.
But Nathi Mthethwa, a member of the ANC and serving minister, accused Mr. Zuma’s opponents of being disingenuous.
“This motion is like a coup d’etat to overthrow a sitting government,” he added.
Mr. Malema fired back, saying the minister was wrong in describing a democratic process as a coup d’etat.
Another lawmaker also added his voice, describing the process as constitutional.
2.56pm: Debate concluded. House set to vote after brief break.
3.00pm: The Speaker reaffirmed that the quorum will be 201 votes, even though there are empty seats in the 400-seat total Parliament.
This means that no matter the number of lawmakers present, 201 of them must be present to vote.
Lawmakers are expected to resume shortly after preparation for the votes…
3.40pm: Voting set to begin as lawmakers reconvene.
3.42pm: Members have now returned from short adjournment.
The Speaker starts by explaining that any issues that may arise from quorum or threshold of today’s vote would be decided by the court.
“We will seek legal opinion about everything later,” Ms. Mbete said.
All parties have now received details of proceeding and voting is expected to commence momentarily.
President Zuma is said to be watching the proceeding from home.
3.46pm: Voting commences. Each MP is being called in alphabetical order. Options are Yes, No, Abstain .
4.20pm: Reporters and cameramen present in the chambers are not allowed to use their devices to take footage of lawmakers as they cast their ballots one after the other.
The Speaker warned of grave consequences for any media practitioner caught in such acts since everyone was aware beforehand that the process would be a secret ballot. This was done in order to protect the sanctity of the process.
Scores of lawmakers have now voted and the process continues.
Voting continues as at 5:15 p.m. local time (4:15 p.m. in Nigeria)
South Africa has a 400-seat Parliament. A quorum requires 201 votes in total. Members can vote for, against or abstain. The ANC has 249 members while the remaining 151 seats are held by opposition lawmakers, some of whom spoke during debates earlier today.
5.06pm: Votes are currently being counted after lawmakers concluded voting.
Total votes: 384
The vote of no confidence fails.