Zuma faces crucial no-confidence vote
South Africa's parliament voted yesterday on a motion of no confidence in embattled President Jacob Zuma that could force him to resign after months of growing anger over alleged corruption.
Zuma has survived six previous attempts to unseat him in parliament, but this was the first to be held by secret ballot after parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete on Monday made the surprise decision to allow it. Opposition parties hoped it would encourage disgruntled legislators with the ruling African National Congress party to vote against Zuma, who has faced numerous allegations of graft while South Africa's economy has fallen into recession.
"Take our country back," the head of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, Mmusi Maimane, urged lawmakers. "This is a historic day. Indeed, since the dawn of our democracy the stakes have never been higher." Some lawmakers sang and clapped as the ballot boxes were prepared.
Widespread frustration over Zuma has hurt the ANC, the former liberation movement that has led South Africa since the end of white minority rule and the first all-race elections in 1994. On Tuesday, former President Thabo Mbeki said ANC lawmakers must ask themselves if they have confidence in Zuma when they go to vote, according to a video posted by a Nairobi-based journalist on Twitter.
"Those MPs must recall that they are the representatives of the people, and must therefore represent the people in terms of what they do this afternoon," Mbeki told reporters.
The ANC holds a majority of the 400 parliament seats, and the party has repeatedly said its members will not support the opposition-led attempt to unseat the president. The party has 249 parliamentary seats, five of which are currently vacant, said a party spokeswoman, Nonceba Mhlauli.
The no-confidence motion needs 201 votes to succeed.