Speaker promises to “do the right thing” on move to oust South Africa’s Zuma

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. Picture: Nic Bothma/EPA

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The woman who will decide whether to allow a secret ballot that could oust South African President Jacob Zuma was quoted on Thursday saying she would “do the right thing”.

What that means was unclear from Speaker Baleka Mbete’s comments to The New Age newspaper, but she called on the people of South Africa to trust its lawmakers.

The country’s top court in June ruled that secret ballots may be held for motions of no confidence in parliament, but did not order one, leaving the decision to Mbete.

Zuma’s critics want a no-confidence vote in Zuma to be anonymous hoping it will embolden lawmakers from his African National Congress party to support his ouster by shielding them from pressure.

The Zuma administration has been beset by scandals and criticised for failing to address serious economic problems.

Mbete was non-committal after the Constitutional Court ruling, simply noting that she now had the right to decide.

On Thursday, the New Age reported Mbete as promising to “apply her mind judiciously” and “do the right thing”.

“What I am willing to say to the people of South Africa, as members of parliament … trust us,” Mbete said.

A motion of no confidence requires a simple majority to pass, in this case 201 votes out of the 400-member parliament.

The 75-year-old Zuma has survived eight previous motions of no-confidence since taking office in 2009. If the motion succeeds Zuma and his entire cabinet would have to step down.

The chorus of criticism against Zuma from inside the ruling African National Congress and the opposition has grown since he fired Pravin Gordhan as finance minister in March, a move that prompted S&P Global Ratings and Fitch to downgrade South Africa’s credit rating to “junk” status.