Speaker's powers belong to the people: ConCourt rules

22 June 2017 - 13:32 By Nomahlubi Jordaan

The power that the Speaker of the National Assembly has to determine a voting procedure in a motion of no confidence belongs to the people and should not be exercised "arbitrarily and whimsically"‚ the Constitutional Court has found.

"The Speaker is chosen from amongst members of the National Assembly. That gives rise to the same responsibility to balance party interests with those of the people‚" Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said in a judgment that found that Baleka Mbete has the power to prescribe a secret ballot.

Mbete had said that neither the constitution nor the rules of the National Assembly allowed her to prescribe a secret ballot.

The court found that she was mistaken in making that decision and set it aside.

"Our interpretation of the relevant provisions of the constitution and the rules make it clear that the Speaker does have the power to authorise a vote by a secret ballot in a motion of no confidence proceedings against the President‚ in appropriate circumstances."

The court found that a secret ballot is necessary to enhance the "freeness and fairness" of the vote.

"This allows members to exercise their vote freely and effectively‚ in accordance with the conscience of each‚ without undue influence‚ intimidation or fear of disapproval by others‚" the judgment reads.

"The correct exercise of parliament's powers in relation to a motion of no confidence in the president‚ must therefore have the effect of ensuring that the voting process is not a fear or money-inspired sham but a genuine motion for the effective enforcement of accountability."

The motion of no confidence is also neither for the benefit of Mbete nor her party‚ Mogoeng said.

The court ordered that the president and the Speaker pay the costs of the application.

It also ordered her to make a decision on the UDM's request that the next motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma be conducted by secret ballot.

- TimesLIVE