Zuma Vote: 'D' Day for South Africa's President Over Corruption Claims

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 8/8/2017, 10:46 a.m.
Members of South Africa's parliament were voting on a motion of no-confidence in the country's president, Jacob Zuma, Tuesday, testing ...

By David McKenzie and Hilary Clarke, CNN

(CNN) -- Members of South Africa's parliament were voting on a motion of no-confidence in the country's president, Jacob Zuma, Tuesday, testing the loyalty of members of his party, the African National Congress (ANC).

The vote was taking take place in secret, leading to speculation that more ANC members of parliament will break party ranks and vote to oust their scandal-hit leader.

As head of the party that led South Africa out of apartheid, Zuma won the presidential election in 2009 and 2014, but has faced a number of no confidence votes in the past and has been dogged by criminal investigations and corruption allegations.

More than 50 of the ANC's 249 MPs would need to vote against the president in order for the no confidence motion to pass.

"The chose before us is a simple one. Either we allow one family, aided and abetted by the President to take everything from us or on behalf of the people of South Africa we take our country back," said opposition leader Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance party in an emotional speech that opened the debate.

"This debate is about our integrity as the governing party," said Doris Dlakude, Deputy Chief Whip of the ANC in the National Assembly.

She claimed the motion of no confidence was the work of an "insurrectionist opposition" whose main aim was to "sow seeds of chaos in society to ultimately grab power."

"The inherent danger of such a practice, the potential to use money to influence politics and the electorate won't know what they voted for," she told the parliament. "We are not sellouts, we know who sent us here, we will vote ANC," she said.

In Cape Town, thousands of protesters from the various opposition parties amassed near parliament where large television screens have been erected for them to watch the debate that precedes the vote.

Zuma's supporters were also planning to march.

There was a heavy police presence with some in riot gear and equipped with razor wire in case of violence.

According to the South African constitution, if he loses the vote, President Zuma and his entire cabinet would have to step down and the speaker of Parliament would take up the presidency for 30 days.

Parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete decided to make the vote private after an opposition party took the case to the Constitutional Court.

Former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, said the secret ballot should encourage lawmakers to "vote truthfully, and without fear that maybe the party, in this case the ANC, might punish them if they vote in support of the motion of no confidence."

"What all of us hope is that they will vote honestly, because you know the opinion in the country about what's been happening and the politics of South Africa. I think 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."