EFF: Mbete has a constitutional obligation to allow secret ballot

A vote of no confidence for President Zuma's resignation is now on the table at Parliament but has been postponed while opposition MPs try their best to ensure that the voting method for the motion happens via secret ballots.

The judges questioned why the section in the Constitution dealing with the vote of no confidence did not specifically mention that the vote should be done by way of secret ballot‚ while other sections explicitly stated the method of voting.

Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga said there were only two instances in the Constitution in which a secret ballot was raised and these were when citizens voted in an election and when the president was appointed, in section 86. Earlier in May, South Africa's High Court ordered Zuma to provide reasons for Gordhan's sacking. "ANC members of parliament should not need a secret ballot to do the right thing".

The motion is passed on the grounds that the National Assembly no longer has confidence in the president's ability to lead the country.

He told the court that the IFP has for many years complained about the motion of no confidence not being conducted by way of a secret ballot.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said in his court papers the application arose from the fact that Mbete had refused the party's request to have the voting of these motions conducted by way of secret ballot.

Why do some MPs want a secret ballot?

In the case that ConCourt rules that Mbete must make use of open ballots for a vote of no confidence, the National Assembly still has the power to temporarily suspend that rule.

This meant that it was her obligation to arrange for a secret ballot and she had failed to discharge it, Mpofu said.

Mpofu said Parliament had declared intimidation of MPs as a crime.

In the eyes of the law and in this case in particular, the Speaker was a constitutional representative of Parliament.

Zuma is due to step down as ANC leader in December and as president in 2019.

Mpofu said the requirement for the secret ballot on a motion of no confidence would be to protect MPs from intimidation.

Parliament's Speaker, Baleka Mbete, a top ANC official, has said the rules do not allow for the secret ballot and the ANC Chief Whip's office has rejected calls for one.

The ANC holds a large majority in parliament and Zuma has survived similar votes in the past, which have not been secret.

No motion of confidence has succeeded because ANC MPs traditionally close ranks around Zuma.

  • Carolyn Briggs