JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s political opposition on Monday mounted its latest challenge to President Jacob Zuma, saying in court that a parliamentary vote of no confidence should be by secret ballot.

Opposition lawyers argued for the measure at the Constitutional Court in the belief that disgruntled lawmakers in the ruling party could turn against Zuma if their votes are not publicly disclosed and they have less fear of reprisals from his loyalists.

Baleka Mbete, the National Assembly speaker and a member of the ruling African National Congress, has said parliamentary rules don’t allow a secret ballot. The scandal-plagued president has survived past votes of no confidence in the parliament, although more ruling party members are speaking out against him.

Opposition activists marched peacefully to the courthouse in Johannesburg as the judges considered arguments on the secret ballot.

Zuma, who is in his second five-year term after becoming president in 2009, has become a flashpoint for concerns about government corruption and mismanagement in one of Africa’s most powerful economies.

Zuma fired Pravin Gordhan, the widely respected finance minister, in a Cabinet reshuffle in late March. Some top ruling party leaders openly criticized the decision. Two agencies, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, responded by lowering South Africa’s credit rating to below investment grade, raising concerns about a weakening currency and price increases in a country with high unemployment.

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CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
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