Speaker Baleka Mbete File picture: Itumeleng English/ANA Pictures

Parliament - It is D-day for Speaker Baleka Mbete as she makes the eagerly awaited decision on whether the vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma should be decided through a secret ballot.

Parliament was expected to make the decision today ahead of the vote in the National Assembly tomorrow.

Parliament’s spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo, yesterday confirmed that Mbete was set to announce her decision today.

“National Assembly Speaker Ms Baleka Mbete will (today) address the media on the voting procedure to be followed when the motion of no confidence in the president of the Republic is debated on August 8,” said Mothapo in a brief statement yesterday.

The EFF and the DA have already vowed to go to court if Mbete decides against a secret ballot. They want her to order that the vote be conducted through a secret ballot to allow ANC MPs, who want to vote with the opposition, to do so without being identified.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said it would be better if Mbete announced her decision today, before MPs vote tomorrow.

He said there could be several reasons why Mbete has delayed announcing her decision, following the Constitutional Court judgment a few weeks ago.

“It is the ANC’s anxiety about the whole exercise of a secret ballot… they (ANC) wanted to off-set any strategy and lobbying by the opposition,” said Fikeni of the delay.

However, he warned that the delay could be a gamble, because opposition parties will go to court and challenge her decision. 

This would lead to more delays for the vote to be conducted in Parliament, he pointed out.

Fikeni said Mbete was in a difficult position and Zuma did not make things easier for her with his position on an open ballot.

“The president didn’t make her life easier by announcing his preference that he did not want a secret ballot,” said Fikeni.

The DA has added to Mbete’s pressure with a planned march to Parliament tomorrow. The party’s national spokesperson, Phumzile van Damme, yesterday called on civic groups to join the march.

“The DA encourages all South Africans from all political affiliations to come out in their millions tomorrow to defend our democracy against the corrupt and the captured. 

“While the main march #NoConfidence will be held in Cape Town, the DA has organised events in all nine provinces for those who are not able to travel to Cape Town,” Van Damme added.

Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, in a video posted online, called on South Africans to join the march to Parliament.

But the ANC caucus in Parliament on Saturday stuck to its guns in rejecting the motion of no confidence in Zuma, saying his removal would be like dropping a nuclear bomb on the country. 

The party’s chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, insisted that Zuma’s removal would not be in the best interests of the country.

Mthembu said current “irritations” should not blind public representatives to act in a manner that destroyed everything built since the dawn of democracy.

“Voting in favour of the motion will be tantamount to throwing a nuclear bomb on our country. The removal of the president will have disastrous consequences that can only have a negative impact on the people of South Africa,” he said.

But Cope differed with Mthembu, saying Mbete must respect MPs and do the right thing. Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota said no party can force its MPs not to vote with their conscience.

“The court has made it clear that those of us who are elected, once elected and having taken our oath of office, owe it to the people of South Africa as a whole that no political party can compel an MP to vote against their conscience and against their judgment. Now they will exercise their rights, without fear,” said Lekota.

ANC MPs Dr Makhosi Khoza and Mondli Gungubele have publicly said they will vote against Zuma, with the former writing to the Speaker urging her to allow a secret ballot.

Khoza has been hauled before the disciplinary committee of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal for speaking out against Zuma. Her hearing is scheduled for September 10.

Gungubele was told by the ANC in Gauteng to stop speaking out on the matter and he agreed to follow the party’s instruction.

Former tourism minister Derek Hanekom has said half of the ANC caucus in Parliament was unhappy with Zuma.

The ANC has warned against any of its MPs voting against Zuma, saying they will face disciplinary action.

Zuma has been under increasing pressure to go. 

Several protests have been planned in Cape Town tomorrow, where thousands are expected to march for and against Zuma. Civil society has been mobilising against Zuma for months. ANC members in the Dullah Omar region, the party’s biggest region in the Western Cape, will march in support of Zuma.

Police have warned that tough action would be taken on acts of lawlessness during the marches.

Yesterday, Western Cape police said all law-enforcement agencies were preparing for approved planned marches to Parliament today and tomorrow.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa said an operational plan has been developed under the auspices of the provincial joint operational and intelligence structure in anticipation of thousands of people descending on the Mother City centre.

Cape Times