When Baleka Mbete tossed the cat among the political pigeons yesterday by announcing a secret ballot for the no-confidence motion on President Jacob Zuma, she left the country stunned and wondering what the future holds.
If the secret ballot sees enough ANC MPs defecting and voting with the opposition against Zuma, Mbete will end up as acting president.
She will have to appoint a new Cabinet because Zuma’s ministers and deputy ministers will also have to resign.
Making the announcement yesterday, she seemed unusually independent and outspoken, referring to the atmosphere in parliament as “toxic”.
She was hailed as a hero by the opposition which has, for the first time, it believes, a sniff of unseating Zuma.
On the other hand, indications are that Zuma will again emerge on top. And according to political analysts Mbete’s decision to hold the vote in secret was because she knew the ANC caucus had already done enough work on the ground in convincing members to vote in Zuma’s favour.
“Would ANC members vote on a motion that brings so much uncertainty about their future? I doubt it,” analyst Ralph Mathekga said.
Mathekga said if the motion did not succeed it would further expose opposition parties who initially brought the motion for having failed to convince ANC members to use their conscience and vote the other way.
Analyst Daniel Silke said if the motion was defeated, Zuma and his supporters could be emboldened.
“I don’t think Zuma is in any more trouble than he was before. There will be more lobbying and groundwork to try to save him.”
Opposition parties, by calling for a secret ballot, had also taken a risk, he said.
“If they underestimate the desire by the ANC not to allow the opposition motion to dictate the course of events – then indeed the ANC will come out of this relatively stronger.”
But if there is one thing resulting from this historic decision, according to analyst Somadoda Fikeni, it is that it changes South Africa’s political system, “because political parties will now work hard to please their members, rather than thinking they can force them through disciplinary action or threats”.
Fikeni said Zuma supporters were not going to be very happy with Mbete.
“The toxic environment is a reality no one can deny any more.” – email@example.com