Aug. 8 (UPI) — South African President Jacob Zuma survived a secret no-confidence vote Tuesday by Parliament over allegations of corruption.
After hours of debate, lawmakers put the two-term leader’s fate to a vote — 177 voted against Zuma, and 198 voted in his favor. Nine abstained from voting. Had he lost, he and his entire cabinet would have had to resign.
Protesters, both for and against the embattled president, caused traffic jams across Johannesburg, authorities said.
Zuma’s African National Congress party dominates the legislature, holding 249 of the 400 seats. The opposition believed at least 50 lawmakers in the ANC would defect and vote against Zuma.
Zuma has now survived six parliamentary votes to remove him from office since he assumed the presidency in 2009, but Tuesday’s vote was the first secret ballot vote.
The president’s supporters said his removal would send the country into chaos amid a leadership vacuum.
“Voting in favor of this motion will be tantamount to throwing a nuclear bomb at our country,” said the ANC’s chief whip in Parliament, Jackson Mthembu.
Opposition against Zuma has been stoked by a number of things — including exposure of corruption and influence peddling, a surging national unemployment rate of nearly 30 percent, the downgrading of South Africa’s global credit status after the firing of well-respected finance minister Pravin Gordham in March, and leaked emails showing the closeness of Zuma to a family involved in choosing Cabinet ministers and officials.
Also at issue has been Zuma’s leadership as head of the party. If Parliament had recalled him Tuesday, ending a presidency scheduled to run until 2019, he still would have remained ANC head until December.