National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete has announced that she will allow a secret ballot in Tuesday’s vote of no confidence against President Zuma.
Speaking at an “unprecedented” media event on Monday afternoon, Mbete said that she considered the Constitutional Court judgement which gave her exclusive power, views of South Africa’s political parties as well as legal advice.
“There is no Constitutional obligation for a parliamentary member to swear an oath of obligation to their political party,” she said.
“As members of the electorate, members are not supposed to always act under a veil of secrecy.”
“A reading of the Constitutional Court judgement suggest that any action against a member who voted with their Constitution may be struck down as unconstitutional.”
“Having considered all the factors and mindful of the fact that it will not set a precedent, I therefore determine that voting in the motion of no confidence will be by secret ballot.”
The decision was announced less than 24 hours before the vote of no confidence is meant to take place, and was preceded by over 46 days in which Mbete was silent on the secret ballot.
Initially, Mbete had publicly stated that she would allow for a secret ballot if given permission to do so by the Constitutional Court.
However, recent reports indicated that she was having trouble in confirming the decision because it would result in her either betraying her word or her allegiances to the ANC.
Speaking to the Sunday Times this past weekend, Mbete said she was still agonising over what to do with the vote, but denied that she was employing delaying tactics to avoid a possible court challenge by opposition parties.
“You don’t wish to be me, it’s a difficult place to be…It’s what Sotho people call kgomo ya moshate [damned if you do, damned if you don’t],” she said.
Due to the late announcement, it is unlikely that any political parties will have access to the full reasons for Mbete’s decision, but there could still be enough time for an urgent application by one of the parties, said Webber Wentzel attorney Dario Milo.