08/08/2017 12:28 SAST | Updated 08/08/2017 12:28 SAST

Yes, No, Abstain

The final countdown - what will happen in Parliament this afternoon.

POOL New / Reuters
A member of the South African Defence Force stands guard ahead of President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address (SONA) to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in Cape Town, South Africa February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Nic Bothma/Pool

South Africa's Parliament in Cape Town is an exciting and historic place known globally as the site of the transition from the system of legalised apartheid to a free and democratic country.

Since the EFF won representation after the 2014 election, it has become like the nation's bioscope with riveting political theatre making it a site of accountability and often of chaos.

Today is likely to go down as another occasion eagerly watched by a nation on the edge of its seat. Will the president go or will he stay? Here's what is going to happen this afternoon.

The National Assembly is packed out as party chief whips have called three line whips to ensure their members are present. The motion of no confidence is debated by the top guns in all parties. Time is allocated according to the party's proportional representation, which is determined by its share of the vote at elections.

The draft resolution by Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the opposition, resolves that Parliament "has no confidence in the in Mr J G Zuma as President of the Republic of South Africa on the grounds of his irrational, irresponsible and reckless leadership..."

The motion says investor confidence plummeted after the president axed former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas and this plunged South Africa into an economic crisis. After the December 2015 firing of then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, "President Zuma deliberately chose to repeat his actions, which is evidence that he has lost all all sense of rationality and sound judgement," reads the draft motion. "The economic crisis has led to job losses and it is felt most acutely by the poor and most vulnerable citizens."

Mmaimane ends his draft call for a motion of no confidence with these words: "[President Jacob Zuma's] derelict leadership has resulted in a collapse of public confidence in [Zuma], created a government at war with itself and ultimately undermined efforts to restore confidence in the South African economy."

The ANC has chosen four reliable and dependable supporters of President Jacob Zuma to oppose the motion. They are the party's deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude, former youth leader Pule Mabe, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans' Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqcakula and Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who will sweep to close the debate.

The opposition will deploy its most fiery guns in the form of the EFF leader Julius Malema, the DA will be represented by Phumzile van Damme, the UDM by Bantu Holomisa (who is responsible for the secret ballot) and COPE's Mosioua Lekota.

Around 3.30pm
The business of the National Assembly is suspended.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) readies the room for the first secret vote of no confidence. There are two ballot boxes and four voting booths for an expected 400 voters.

The bells ring and the doors are locked. Speaker Baleka Mbete tells MPs how the vote will work.

Ballot papers are blank except for the words: YES, NO, ABSTAIN

A control sheet is the most important document of the day as it contains the final and absolute numbers of MPs who will vote.

Members are called in alphabetical order to collect their ballot papers, which are stamped so the boxes can't be stuffed.

Members vote. A vote is invalid if the ballot paper is not stamped, if it is unmarked or if a member signs it with his or her name

When each MP has voted, the Speaker directs that the ballot boxes be closed and sealed.

The seal on the slit at the top of the ballot box is sealed.

A whip from each party is called as witness to the count.

The business of the house is suspended.

Around 5pm
The count starts. Room G26, directly behind the Speaker's chair, has been set aside for the counting process which is monitored by the Speaker, the party whips or party representatives

The boxes are opened and the votes sorted, counted and audited. This process will take about 30 minutes.

No one may announce the results as that is the Speaker's job

Around 5.30pm, the count ends

Around 6pm

The result is announced to a nation on tenterhooks.