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South African President Survives No-Confidence Vote In Parliament

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

South Africa's president has survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament. It was the most serious effort yet to unseat Jacob Zuma. There's a lot of anger in the country over corruption scandals and an economy that's been faltering. Peter Granitz reports from the capital, Pretoria, that while Zuma stays on as president, he has lost the support of some members of his party.

PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: This was the sixth parliamentary vote to remove Zuma from power since he took office in 2009. But this vote, unlike all the previous, was done by secret ballot. Opposition members hoped the anonymity would encourage unhappy members of Zuma's ruling African National Congress to vote against him, and that seems to have happened. The ANC has a majority in Parliament, and of the 384 votes cast, 177 legislators supported the no-confidence measure. It was not enough to pass. But it's clear that at least 20 ANC members either broke rank and voted against him or abstained. However, it was Zuma's supporters who made the most noise when Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete read the results.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BALEKA MBETE: The yes - 177.

(CHEERING)

GRANITZ: The 75-year-old Zuma has been dogged by scandal and allegations of corruption during his time in office. He also has been accused of mismanaging the economy. In March, he sacked two finance officials. The move sent the nation's currency into a tailspin and prompted two credit ratings agencies to downgrade South Africa to junk status. Immediately following the vote, a defiant and buoyant Zuma thanked the ANC faithful who gathered outside Parliament to show support.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA: You came in your numbers to demonstrate that the ANC is there, is powerful, is big. It's difficult to defeat the ANC.

GRANITZ: The opposition parties that pushed for the vote sought to frame it as a win. Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said the ANC is mortally wounded. In his pitch before the vote, he framed the decision as a choice between good and evil.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POLITICIAN MMUSI MAIMANE: I'm asking you to take South Africa's side today. Whatever you choose, history will remember you for that choice.

GRANITZ: President Zuma finishes his term as party leader in December, and his term as president of South Africa ends in 2019. The ANC has led South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994, but the party's support has declined in each of the last three elections. For NPR News, I'm Peter Granitz in Pretoria.

(SOUNDBITE OF MNDSGN'S "ABEJA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.