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UDM: Secret ballot bid not about separation of powers

The UDM says the case for a secret ballot in the motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma not about the separation of powers or the encroachment of the courts.

DA and EFF members gathered at the Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg for the march to the Constitutional Court. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The United Democratic Movement (UDM) has told the Constitutional Court that its case for a secret ballot in the motion of no confidence against the president is not about the separation of powers or the encroachment of the courts.

The party says the issue comes down to whether a secret ballot is required, prohibited or permitted.

While the UDM wants the court to give Parliament the go-ahead to vote in secret, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has argued that the rules of Parliament make no provision for this.

Advocate Dali Mpofu presented arguments for the UDM saying: “If we succeed on the basis that the secret ballot is required, the issue of separation of powers does not come into it whatsoever.”

The Constitutional Court has heard that MPs are not machines created to carry out the mandate of their parties and that they're entitled to vote according to their consciences.

EFF: MP'S ENTITLED TO VOTE ACCORDING TO THEIR CONSCIENCE

The Economic Freedom Fighter has made submissions as a friend of the court in an urgent application for direct access by the UDM against the speaker of the National Assembly and the president.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi says the case is about holding the executive to account.

“Inside the National Assembly itself, members are entitled to vote according to their personal conscience; that has now crystallised into a constitutional principle – we know that from at least three decisions, two from this court and one decision from the Western Cape High Court.”

Ngcukaitobi says deployment by a party does not compel members to vote against their own conscience.

“The fact that a party nominates a member to sit in Parliament does not take away the discretion of that particular member, on any topic before them, vote according to personal conscience.”

Meanwhile, leaders of opposition parties and civil society groups have led hundreds of supporters to the Constitutional Court in support of the UDM’s secret ballot bid.

Protesters chanted and danced through the streets of Johannesburg, heading to the highest court of the land.

Leader Mmusi Maimane addressed those gathered, saying President Jacob Zuma is continuously letting the country down.

“We are here to say you deployed Brian Molefe … we are here to say you deserve to be in jail.”

He adds the president is incapable of leading.

“Corruption goes up every year, unemployment has gone up, food prices have gone up and South Africa is going down.”

Supporters of the march say they want the court to know they support the secret ballot.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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