President Jacob Zuma, left, accompanies National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. Picture: GCIS
President Jacob Zuma, left, accompanies National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. Picture: GCIS

The vote on the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma will be conducted via secret ballot, National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete announced on Monday.

The motion was scheduled to take place on Tuesday and the method of voting was seen by some observers and opposition parties as crucial for the outcome, amid growing calls within the ANC and its alliance partners for Zuma to step down.

Opposition parties, particularly the EFF, wanted a secret ballot. The DA said last week that evidence of intimidation of ANC members meant a secret ballot was warranted.

The ANC has said it would abide by the speaker’s decision.

Mbete said during a media briefing that her decision was “in the best interest of the country”.

The DA tabled the motion earlier in 2017 following Zuma’s decision to fire then finance minister Pravin Gordhan‚ and then deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas‚ which sent the rand and markets into a tailspin.

The UDM, which was later joined by other opposition parties, then approached the Constitutional Court after Mbete refused its request to have the vote by secret ballot. It argued that an open vote could lead to ANC MPs facing intimidation if they did not toe the party line.

In June, the Constitutional Court ruled that the speaker of the National Assembly had the constitutional power to prescribe that voting in a no-confidence motion in the president be conducted by secret ballot.

But the court ruled that the separation of powers doctrine meant it could not tell the speaker what to do.

The ANC has said it has “unqualified and unequivocal confidence” that its MPs will not vote in support of a motion of no confidence in Zuma, regardless of whether or not such a vote is conducted by secret ballot. While the Constitutional Court made it clear that MPs are required to swear allegiance to the country and the constitution, not their parties, the ANC has continued to insist that its MPs should toe the party line and vote against the motion.

For the motion to succeed, at least 50 of the 249 ANC MPs will need to break ranks. The National Assembly has 400 members. In November 2016‚ the ANC used its majority to quash the DA’s attempt to have Zuma removed from office.

EFF leader Julius Malema said in July that more than 60 ANC MPs would back the vote against Zuma if the ballot were secret.

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