Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, has absolutely no incentive to order a secret ballot when the Motion of No Confidence against President Jacob Zuma is eventually tabled in Parliament.
The public discourse, following the Constitutional Court’s judgment on the UDM’s application, has largely centred around the fact that Mbete is officially the arbiter on this matter.
Opposition parties and those who have become increasingly disillusioned with the Jacob Zuma administration have treated the outcome of that case as a victory.
Technically, they are right. This was a victory for the the parties that took this matter to the top court in the land.
“The Speaker and the President must pay the costs of the United Democratic Movement, the Economic Freedom Fighters, the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Congress of the People, including costs of two counsel where applicable,” read the final order from the Constitutional Court.
However, there is a bigger picture here, and everybody appears to be missing it. Mbete doesn’t’ have to grant the secret ballot request. She must just decide on the rules of engagement before the vote.
Ultimately, this case is yet another painful reminder that all the opposition parties – involved in the fight to remove President Jacob Zuma from office – have merely won a minor battle in a war. A war that opposition parties and their constituents are unlikely to win.
When it comes to it, I might be proven wrong.
Maybe Mbete, for some peculiar reason, will decide to order a secret ballot for this Motion of No Confidence.
However, there is nothing she has done during her tenure at the helm of the National Assembly which suggests that she will adopt that approach.
Mbete’s credibility as the Speaker of the National Assembly was lost at the very beginning of this parliamentary term.
She has been limping along, from one crisis to the other ever since. In the eyes of many, she has been an awful Speaker. There is quite literally nothing she can do during the remainder of this term that can remedy that.
For those who oppose her, she will always be remembered as a Speaker who failed at her job. She knows and we all know that those attitudes will not change if she orders a secret ballot. There might be some plaudits in the immediate aftermath, but it won’t be long until the opposition finds her wanting in another aspect of her job. She just can’t win on that front, so why should she even try?
That is the first issue.
However, more significantly perhaps, Mbete still has political ambitions of her own. As succession debates start to heat up, in the build-up to the National Conference later this year, branches are already talking about preferred slates or campaign tickets.
Many of those slates, albeit unofficial, are doing the rounds on social media platforms. Mbete’s name features on some of them. Whether her prospects are good or not, is neither here nor there.
The fact that she even features in those discussions would suggest to most that she is in it to win it, whatever the available position might be.
When the National Conference is done and dusted later this year, Mbete could still be the custodian of the ANC, in some capacity or another.
If you were in her position, what party would you like to inherit?
A party that has destroyed itself by removing President Zuma before his time was up or a party that has made a seamless transition and stands the chance to govern once again.
You would probably opt for the latter.
We might never know how the parliamentary caucus of the ANC would vote under a secret ballot on this particular motion.
However, the question to Mbete, and others in similar positions to her will be this.
Is finding out worth the risk?
By Siya Mchunu