JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s top court will rule on Thursday whether a motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma should be taken by secret ballot, a verdict that could pave way for disgruntled members of the ruling party to anonymously dissent.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, which has a majority in parliament, has said it will vote against the motion, but factions within the party are battling for control before a party conference in December where they must choose a successor to 75-year old leader.

Zuma, who will be in parliament later in the day for question and answer session, has survived four previous no-confidence votes. But opponents led by the main opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) believe a recent cabinet reshuffle that led to the dismissal of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan may have angered enough ANC members to desert Zuma.

However, law experts have said the Constitutional Court is unlikely to order parliament to hold a secret ballot because it might be seen as overstepping its line.

“We are hoping that the court will find that speaker has the discretion to order a secret ballot and that if there are compelling reasons in any legislature where people are under threat or in danger of being intimidated, then the speaker must use that discretion in ordering a secret ballot,” said the DA lawmaker and head of its executive.

The ruling is expected at 0800 GMT.

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; editing by Ralph Boulton)