Secret ballot of paramount importance for SA, ConCourt hears

The UDM wants National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to allow a secret ballot when members of Parliament vote to impeach President Zuma.

FILE: The Constitutional Court. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Constitutional Court on Monday morning heard that a secret ballot in the motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma is of paramount importance to South Africa's democracy.

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) wants National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to allow a secret ballot when members of Parliament vote to impeach Zuma.

This comes after she argued that the rules of Parliament do not provide for a secret ballot.

The date of the motion was suspended, pending the outcome of the Constitutional Court bid.

UDM legal representative Dali Mpofu says: “Chief justice, this is a very important matter for our democracy and all our citizens who are represented by members of Parliament.”

Mpofu says they will prove that the secret ballot must happen.

“One approach we’ll take, is [to] demonstrate that it cannot be prohibited. In other words, the only obstacle the respondents can bring is to demonstrate that it’s prohibited and we’ll show it’s out of the question.”

Mpofu says Mbete failed to discharge her obligation to arrange a secret ballot as a constitutional representative of Parliament.

“We are saying the Speaker comes in two guises. She comes as the Speaker, but also the constitutional representative of Parliament.”

Mpofu says the rules of law are very clear on the Speakers' role.

“Our case is very simple. The Speaker has the obligation to arrange for a private ballot. We are pleading that she has such an obligation to arrange it and she has failed to do it.”

At the same time, opposition parties have gathered at Mary Fitzgerald Square in preparation for their march to the Constitution Court in support of the UDM’s secret ballot bid.

Leaders of various opposition parties and civil society organisations are addressing supporters at the gathering.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema says it’s his responsibility to protect African National Congress MPs because their party has abandoned them.

Malema says if Zuma refuses to leave Parliament, they will drag him out.

WATCH LIVE: ConCourt hears arguments on secret Zuma confidence vote

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)