The vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma will take place tomorrow, 8 August. Here’s what you need to know about it, what it means, where the secret ballot fits in, and what will happen if it succeeds.

Secret VS Not Secret

This motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma will be the seventh one. So, this is not a new phenomenon. Why might this time be different? The answer is the secret ballot:

A secret vote means that displeased ANC MPs could vote against Zuma – without risking their jobs by openly going against the party. An open vote, on the other hand, means that their identities will not be protected when voting. As such, the MPs would have to be careful to appear supportive even if they are not – and vote in line with the party for Zuma to stay.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has been quoted as saying that ‘those MPs who did not agree with the party’s directive were “free to take a walk”’. It could be argued that if the vote were to be secret, there may be many more people voting Zuma out than if it is public.

National Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete has just announced that the vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma will take place via secret ballot on Tuesday.

Why has the DA not openly supported the secret ballot? 

A secret ballot might well be a disadvantage for both parties. Having Zuma removed could hurt the DA. As Ranjeni Munusami says in Times Live: ‘Zuma is the DA’s biggest campaign asset and he has been the biggest factor in turning voters against the ANC. For as long as Zuma remains president‚ the DA can continue to dance around the grave the ANC is digging for itself.’ In other words, Zuma staying is the easiest way for the DA to stay popular. However, at the same time the DA has to maintain its campaign against Zuma and vote against him themselves, which they have stated that they will be doing.

What will happen if the motion succeeds?

According to this easy-to-follow News24 video breakdown, this is what will happen if the vote of no confidence succeeds:

  1. Resignation: the president, his ministers and his deputies will have to resign.
  2. Acting President: Speaker Baleka Mbete will take on the role of acting president until a new one is elected.
  3. Election: The National Assembly will elect a new president from its members in the next month. Should there be more than one candidate, this will be done using a secret ballot.
  4. If this (point 3) does not happen, the National Assembly will be dissolved by Mbete and new general elections will follow.

If the secret ballot is allowed in this motion of no confidence, we might be looking at serious shifts in political power.