Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete has given the go ahead for a secret ballot on tomorrow’s Motion of No Confidence debate against President Jacob Zuma.
Making the announcement‚ 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 are obliged to 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 for a secret ballot‚ they 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”.
Mbete said she had given consideration to the “toxified and highly charged environment” as well as to threats to MPs choosing to vote with their consciences in making her decision.
She added she would not recuse herself from the motion of no confidence as she found claims that she could not be impartial to be “reprehensible and unpalatable”.
Despite calling a press conference to make the announcement‚ Mbete said there would be no opportunity for questions.
In June‚ the Constitutional Court ruled that 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 motion will take place at 2 pm tomorrow (Tuesday 8 August 2017).
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 this afternoon‚ Naidoo‚ the executive secretary for 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 conducts its business.
But‚ he said the 46 day delay‚ “calls into question her bona fides” especially given threats of violence and intimidation of MPs.
Naidoo also questioned Mbete’s ability to remain neutral in the debate.
In July‚ Mbete told 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 is secret or no secret.”
Lawson said: “So having instructed MPs how to vote‚ she will then preside over the debate.”[source: TImes Live Parliamentary Bureau]