IN a surprise move, Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete has given the green light for a secret vote in a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.
Mbete made the announcement on Monday afternoon in Cape Town. She told reporters that she had looked at the atmosphere and political landscape to determine what would be the best decision when MPs vote on Tuesday afternoon.
“I have conducted a thorough assessment of the situation and how it will affect all members. This decision is therefore in the best interests of the country. Having considered all the factors, I determined that voting in the motion of no confidence in the president will be by secret ballot,” said Mbete.
This will be the eighth vote against Zuma. He has in the past emerged victoriously but some believe the tables can turn around on Tuesday.
This is because some ANC MPs have publicly expressed dissatisfaction with Zuma and have refused to toe the party line. The likes of Dr Makhosi Khoza, Mondli Gungubele and Pravin Gordhan have vowed to vote with their conscience – a code for dumping Zuma.
However, ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu and party secretary general Gwede Mantashe have warned party members against voting with the opposition, saying that would the highest level of ill-discipline as they were not “free agents”. They insisted that the no confidence vote was a ploy by opposition parties to weaken and eventually remove the ANC from power.
Mbete was taken to the Constitutional Court in June by UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, supported by the main opposition parties, to force her hand in allowing a secret vote. The court ruled that she had the power to sanction such a vote.
Mbete said announcing her decision on national television, and not through statements, as has been in the past was to take the nation into confidence.
“Following the Constitutional Court decision that I have the power to rule on a motion of no confidence to be taken in secret, I have taken this extra ordinary approach in the interest of transparency,” she said.
Mbete added that the decision was taken after consultations and representation by various political parties to give reasons why the vote should be in secret.
“I’m mindful of the fact that I as speaker when exercising this power must do so on a proper and rational basis. I invited the political parties to supply their views on the matter and I also took legal advice,” she said.
“I accept that motion of no confidence in the president is an important one. I have also considered the fact that Constitutional Court said that motion of no confidence is a tool to hold the president accountable.”
Mbete further lambasted political parties and South Africans who accused her of protecting her political party. She said she will not excuse herself from Tuesday’s important vote.
“I wish to indicate that it’s important for social actors to have confidence in our courts and Parliament. I find the calls that the speaker will act in a partisan way [disturbing]. I’m elected by the house and for that, I will not recuse myself from tomorrow’s debate,” she said.
Opposition parties immediately welcomed Mbete’s decision, saying it bode well for democracy and transparency. ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said his party supported the Speaker’s decision