South Africa’s parliament Speaker allows secret ballot in Zuma no-confidence vote

South African President Jacob Zuma

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – The speaker of South Africa’s parliament ruled on Monday that a motion of no-confidence in President Jacob Zuma brought by opposition parties will be held through a secret ballot – a decision which increases the chances he will have to step down.

The decision could embolden members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to vote against Zuma and puts him in a precarious position as he struggles to fend off opposition accusations of corruption and mismanaging the economy.

If the motion succeeds, Zuma — in power since 2009 — and his entire cabinet would have to step down. The rand extended its gains, bonds firmed and banking shares advanced after her announcement.

Speaker Baleka Mbete, who is also the ANC national chairwoman, told a news conference that her decision was meant to ensure the outcome of vote was credible.

“The speaker must do that without fear or favour,” Mbete said in her speech. “This decision is about putting the resilience of putting our democratic institution to test.”

The ANC’s spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the party was not surprised by Mbete’s decision and that the party supported it.

The party has vowed to back Zuma in parliament.

Eight previous no-confidence motions against Zuma have failed as the ANC has a commanding majority in parliament but they were all held through an open process.

Zuma’s sacking of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan in March shook South African markets, undermining his authority and threatening to split the ANC which has governed since the end of apartheid in 1994. The reshuffle was followed by the economy being downgraded to junk status.

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