#SecretBallot fails, but ANC MPs break rank
Cape Town - Opposition MP hopes were dashed after President Jacob Zuma survived a motion of no confidence in his presidency via secret ballot, yet they erupted into cheers following the result.
After a two-hour debate and lengthy voting process on Tuesday, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete announced at 18:40 that 198 MPs voted against the Democratic Alliance's bid to remove Zuma, while 177 voted for, and 9 abstained.
"The motion of no confidence in the president is accordingly negative," Mbete said to loud cheers from the ANC caucus in Parliament.
Interestingly, opposition MPs also broke out into cheers and applause following the announcement of the clearly failed vote, with many probably seeing the high vote count as a minor victory, despite Zuma staying.
Follow our live update here
The ANC had just shy of 240 MPs present in the House, noting their six absentees. On the assumption that all opposition MPs supported the motion, the ANC had at least 30 MPs support the motion.
The nine abstentions make up the rest of the 384 total.
So, the House adjourned on Tuesday with both majority and opposition MPs cheering and high-fiving.
ANC MPs celebrated, while opposition MPs did their best to see the result as a positive.
Close, but not enough
A simple majority of 201 votes was required to remove Zuma as president.
Before the vote, both DA and EFF chief whips John Steenhuisen and Floyd Shivambu raised the issue of the required threshold, given that there were five vacancies shy of the 400 total.
Mbete said they would go forward as planned, with the threshold needed remaining at 201 votes, but the legality thereof to be consulted in retrospect.
The DA also said they had two MPs absent from the vote, while the United Democratic Movement had one.
It didn't matter in the end, as Zuma survived an early axing by 24 votes, or even 21 votes were Mbete to take into account the five vacancies in retrospect.
The nine abstentions would not have made a difference.
ANC MPs 'relaxed'
ANC MPs looked relaxed during the secret ballot process; opposition parties less so, as MPs came up in groups of ten at a time to cast their ballots.
People in the media bays and public gallery were asked not to take any photographs during the voting process.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane was chastised in the House for taking his cellphone into the voting booth. Mbete, however, said he had realised and removed it before casting his vote, and so she would allow it.
It took approximately an hour for the votes to be tallied.
ANC MPs broke out into song after returning to the House before the results were announced, seemingly indicating a Zuma victory.
ANC MPs returning to the House, seemingly celebrating before the #SecretBallot result is announced. #ZumaVote #NoConfidence @News24 pic.twitter.com/BmHxQxBLfM— Paul Herman (@PaulHermanCPT) August 8, 2017
During the debate before the vote, ANC MPs heard that their consciences will remain with them no matter what the result of the secret ballot.
EFF leader Julius Malema, the third speaker on Tuesday, told MPs that Zuma and the controversial Gupta family had brought the country to this historic point.
If Zuma had respected his oath of office, there would be no need for the motion, he told the National Assembly.
"Stop misleading yourself. Stop lying to yourself," Malema said.
"Your vote is secret, [but] your conscience will remain with you."
'The choice is simple'
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane opened the debate, started his speech by greeting "members, comrades and fighters", raising the ire of ANC MPs.
ANC MPs howled over Maimane as he spoke.
"Honourable members, this is a historic day. Since the dawn of democracy, the stakes have never been higher. Our State has been captured.
"Our economy is in a recession, and our country has been downgraded to junk status.
Malema, Maimane, Singh and Shivambu deep in conversation while waiting for bells to ring for #SecretBallot. #NoConfidence #ZumaVote @News24 pic.twitter.com/kA9Z3nBcuC— Paul Herman (@PaulHermanCPT) August 8, 2017
To them, the choice was simple.
"Either we will allow one family, aided and abetted by our president, to take everything from us - or we will take our country back. The choice is not about red, yellow or blue. It is not about party politics.
"Today, our choice is about right or wrong, between good and evil."
ANC speakers though came out swinging to defend their organisation, albeit with very little mention of Zuma's name or his presidency.
"We are aware all issues raised in our society. We acknowledge our mistakes and are committed to correcting them," said deputy ANC chief whip Doris Dlakude.
She labelled the DA insurrectionists anchored on racist privilege. She said they wish to manipulate the legislature to usurp its power and "collapse government".
All members were sent by their parties and they take their mandate from their parties. There was no one in Parliament who could say otherwise.
"The ANC rejects this motion with the contempt it deserves," she said to a standing ovation from the ANC caucus.
The failure of the motion will strengthen Zuma's position in the party and strengthen the belief that the ANC does not have the capacity to recall Zuma, irrespective of the amounts of scandals he has been embroiled in.
The party goes to an elective conference in December, where Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to challenge Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former AU commission chair, for the ANC presidency.