South Africa's main opposition party urges ANC lawmakers to vote Zuma out

South Africa's Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete announced on Monday that there will be a secret ballot in the no confidence motion against President Jacob Zuma. Zuma, 75, who's due to step down as leader of the African National Congress in December and as president in 2019, has defeated several previous attempts to oust him.

The rand strengthened against the dollar, bond yields fell and banking shares advanced after the announcement, encouraged by the increased prospect of Zuma's removal. 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.

Africa's most industrialized economy has sunk into recession and had its credit rating downgraded to junk by two of the three main credit rating agencies.

Mbete said at a press briefing in Parliament that she made the decision after taking into consideration of all factors regarding the issue. "This decision is about putting the resilience of our democratic institution to test".

She also said the Constitutional Court had not given her a date by which she had to make her decision known. The ANC has vowed to back Zuma in parliament.

Opposition parties have welcomed the decision by Mbete.

It would take 50 ANC members backing the opposition for the vote to succeed. Almost all of the 149 opposition MPs have stated they will vote for Mr Zuma to be removed.

The appeal comes as civil society groups and opposition parties ratchet up the pressure on ANC MPs to "vote with their conscious" and not obey the party line on August 8.

ANC lawmakers appeared divided on the vote. "We are saying there is no such", Mthembu said.

But he acknowledged recent criticism of the ANC, and the impact of a cabinet reshuffle in March when respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan was replaced with a Zuma loyalist.

The Speaker (Baleka Mbete in this instance) will then become the country's acting president for 30 days to give the National Assembly time to elect a new president from its ranks.

Some analysts said Zuma could still survive the vote. And the decision can be either open or secret.

  • Geraldine Cohen