Vote on motion of no confidence vote in Zuma to take place in secret

Opposition believes ruling party MPs would not vote against South African president in public

South Africa's speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete has announced that Tuesday's motion of no confidence vote in the country's embattled president, Jacob Zuma, will take place at the National Assembly in secret.

The decision made by Ms Mbete, who is also one of the ANC’s top six officials, has been welcomed by opposition parties who believe many ruling party MPs would not vote against their leader in a public vote because of fears of retribution.

Last week, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu warned party members that voting with opposition MPs to remove Mr Zuma – who is beset by allegations of incompetence and corruption – would damage the country.

Ms Mbete told a press conference on Monday afternoon that her decision was “about putting the resilience of our democratic institutions to test” and was taken “in the best interests of the country”.


"People of South Africa look to parliament for signals of hope. I have considered the environment and heard voices expressing doubt in the integrity and values of our 20-year-old constitution. We therefore have to use this opportunity to show responsiveness to our people," she said.

Tuesday’s vote on Mr Zuma’s future will be the eight vote of confidence in his presidency to take place since he first came to office in 2009, but the first to be held in secret.

In June the constitutional court ruled that Ms Mbete had the power to decide whether such a vote could be in secret, after it was approached by opposition party, the United Democratic Movement, to compel her to do so.

Of the 400 MPs in parliament, 251 are members of the ANC. Nearly all of the 149 opposition MPs have stated they will vote for Mr Zuma to be removed.

However, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, a former ANC youth league president, has insisted that at least 60 ANC MPs had privately confirmed to him that they would vote against Mr Zuma if a secret ballot was held.

Compulsory order

Mr Mthembu has called a "three-line whip" in the ANC caucus for tomorrow's vote in Cape Town – a compulsory order for all its MPs to attend the sitting of the lower house.

The ANC has insisted it was never against a secret ballot taking place because it was confident the motion would not be supported by enough ANC MPs to carry it.

Up to 30,000 anti-Zuma protesters are expected to take to the streets of Cape Town tomorrow ahead of the vote to pressure MPs to vote the ANC president out of office. However, a large number of pro-Zuma marchers from some of the ruling party’s affiliates are also expected to air their views outside of parliament.

Following Ms Mbete’s decision the DA released a statement saying that “ANC MPs now have no excuse. They must use their vote tomorrow to stand up to grand corruption and vote to remove Jacob Zuma as president.”

Even if voted out of office tomorrow, Mr Zuma will remain ANC president until the ruling party’s December’s elective conference.

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South Africa