Zuma no-confidence motion: MPs can vote in secret according to their own conscience

07 August 2017 - 16:15 By Bianca Capazorio

Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete has given the go-ahead for a secret ballot in Tuesday's debate on a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.

Making the announcement on Monday afternoon‚ Mbete said she had taken "due and impartial consideration of all the factors" in making her decision.

She said she was mindful of the fact that a motion of no confidence was a "powerful tool towards holding the president to account" and that MPs were obliged to act in accordance with the Constitution above party allegiances.

Mbete said while it was important that Parliament was seen to be conducting its business in an open and transparent way‚ the people of South Africa "look to Parliament for symbols of hope".

She said by allowing a secret ballot‚ Parliament would "use the opportunity to show responsiveness to our people".

Mbete said she believed her decision was "in the best interests of our country" and would put "the resilience of the democratic institution to the test".

She also said she had considered the "toxified and highly charged environment" and threats made to MPs who chose to vote according to their conscience.

She added she would not recuse herself from the debate on the motion of no confidence as she found claims that she could not be impartial to be "reprehensible and unpalatable".

Despite calling Monday’s media conference to make the announcement‚ Mbete said there would be no opportunity for questions.

In June‚ the Constitutional Court ruled there was scope in the parliamentary rules for a secret ballot‚ and ordered Mbete to make the decision.

The matter was taken to court by the United Democratic Movement.

At the weekend‚ Mbete told the Sunday Times that she had not been delaying making the decision‚ but that it had been a difficult process.

The debate on the motion will take place at 2pm on Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday‚ constitutional activist Lawson Naidoo said Mbete's delay in announcing her decision on the no-confidence ballot "smacks of arrogance".

Addressing the Cape Town Press Club‚ Naidoo‚ the executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution‚ said that had Mbete taken a decision shortly after receiving political party submissions on July 14‚ it would have been difficult to argue that her decision was irrational because there was a "strong argument for openness and transparency" in the way in which Parliament conducted its business.

But‚ he said‚ the 46-day delay "calls into question her bona fides" especially given threats of violence against and intimidation of MPs.

Naidoo also questioned Mbete's ability to remain neutral in the debate.

In July‚ Mbete told the media on the sidelines of the ANC policy conference: "It’s really of no major material basis that technically the votes would be either secret or not‚ because at the end of the day‚ ANC MPs know how to vote. They have done it seven times. So this eighth time can’t be different; it doesn’t matter whether it is secret or no secret."

Lawson said: "So‚ having instructed MPs how to vote‚ she will then preside over the debate."

- Parliamentary Bureau