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South Africa's President Faces 6th Vote Of No Confidence


In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma faces yet another vote of no confidence this morning. Zuma's party has bailed him out from at least five previous attempts to remove him. But this time, things could be different. Here's reporter Peter Granitz in Pretoria.

PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Jacob Zuma has been under a cloud of suspicion and corruption for years since before he took office as president in 2009. He's both president of the country and his political party, the African National Congress. They hold the majority in Parliament. That should normally be enough to guarantee his safety, but this time, Parliament speaker Baleka Mbete took an unexpected and unprecedented step. She allowed for a secret ballot giving ANC members cover if they choose to vote with the opposition.


BALEKA MBETE: The Constitutional Court has indicated that a secret ballot becomes necessary when the prevailing atmosphere is toxified or highly charged.

GRANITZ: Highly charged is one way to describe the atmosphere in South Africa. Things heated up in March. When Zuma purged his Cabinet, a cascade of bad news followed. Credit ratings agencies downgraded South Africa to junk status. Opposition parties mobilized tens of thousands of people and anti-Zuma protests around South Africa. Zuma's political allies, the South African Communist Party and a federation of trade unions called for him to quit. An leaked emails show his close, questionable relationship with a controversial family that's won massive government contracts. Cathy Powell is a constitutional law expert at the University of Cape Town.

CATHY POWELL: It's definitely in the ANC's interest to get rid of him earlier. I don't think - there must be very few people within the ANC who do not realize what a liability he has become.

GRANITZ: The ANC has dominated politics in South Africa since Nelson Mandela guided the party to victory in the first democratic elections in 1994. But Cathy Powell says under Zuma's leadership, it's impossible to tell what the party now stands for.

POWELL: It doesn't appear to have any principled basis for any government. The corruption is so endemic that what it seems to believe in now is the enrichment of the people who hold positions of power.

GRANITZ: Powell says regardless of who leads the party, the ANC could lose its majority and mandate to govern the country in 2019. For NPR News, I'm Peter Granitz in Pretoria.

(SOUNDBITE OF RED SNAPPER'S "ARCHOUT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Granitz
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