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#SecretBallot: Mbete won’t be rushed into decision

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has asked political parties to give her space to make a decision, which she's promised to announce before the 8 August vote.

President Jacob Zuma and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete outside Parliament ahead of State of the Nation Address in 2015. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN - National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete won't be rushed into deciding on a secret ballot for the upcoming motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.

Mbete asked political parties to give her space to make a decision, which she promised to announce before the 8 August vote.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the party would go to court if Mbete refused to allow Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote in secret.

“For it will be futile for the motion of no confidence to take place with no secret ballot.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance said there was no reason why Mbete could not make her decision known immediately. The party added she should stop playing games.

More than 60 African National Congress (ANC) MPs will back a no confidence vote against Zuma if the ballot is secret, the leader of the EFF Julius Malema, said.

Toppling Zuma requires 50 of the 249 ANC MPs to support the no-confidence motion and some have said publicly they want him removed, including former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, whose sacking in March triggered damaging debt rating downgrades.

The National Assembly has 400 members.

Malema, a firebrand politician known for his colourful language, said in an interview late on Thursday, he had received personal commitments that ANC MPs would dump Zuma.

Malema, a former head of the ANC’s Youth League before his expulsion from the party, could plausibly still have plenty of contacts in the organisation.

“I personally spoke to more than 60 MPs of the ANC who have committed that if we give them a secret ballot they will deliver,” Malema told Reuters in his office.

“They’ve asked that this thing must be secret. They are not happy themselves,” said Malema, seated in front of an EFF sign featuring a clenched black fist holding a spear, super-imposed over an African map.

This is the ninth time the opposition will have tried to unseat him by peeling off dissidents from the ruling party, whose majority has so far protected him.

But unlike previous attempts, this time the vote may not be open. The Constitutional Court has cleared the way Mbete to allow a secret ballot, though it remains unclear she will.

The ANC’s official line is that the party will close ranks and back Zuma. Party officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Malema’s remarks.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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