Baleka Mbete, the speaker of parliament, is known for her spectacular headgear, to which she seems to pay much more attention than to being an impartial arbiter of parliamentary debate. But she now has a heavy burden to bear in juggling her figurative hats: speaker, presidential candidate and chair of the ANC. On August 8, the landmark parliamentary vote on a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma will take place. It threatens to break the logjam of SA politics by initiating a split in the ANC — or, alternatively, condemning SA to further destruction under a corrupt and rudderless party. It is Mbete, as speaker of parliament, who must decide whether the vote should be secret, which would open the way for ANC MPs to vote against the president without fear of reprisals. In a way, she almost doesn’t have a choice. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng made it clear a month ago that the speaker’s power must not be exercised "arbitrarily or whimsically". He said parliament has a duty to...

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