Secret ballot vote: Holomisa confident ConCourt will rule in UDM's favour

The UDM approached the court last month, asking it to give Parliament the go ahead to vote in secret.

FILE: UDM leader Bantu Holomisa raises his fist before he addresses the crowd at the Freedom Movement rally against the leadership of President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on 27 April 2017. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa says he's confident that the Constitutional Court will rule in the party's favour in its application for a secret ballot in a no confidence motion in President Jacob Zuma.

A ruling is expected on Thursday.

Holomisa says that he doesn't expect the court to instruct Parliament to conduct a secret ballot but only wants it to make a determination on whether National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has the power to arrange this.

“If the court allows for a certain act or section to have the secret ballot then we will call for a meeting of the programming committee of Parliament and effect the judgment.”

The UDM approached the court last month, asking it to give Parliament the go ahead to vote in secret during a proposed motion of no confidence against Zuma.

The debate around the fifth motion of no confidence was scheduled for April following Zuma’s controversial Cabinet reshuffle, but it was postponed by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete on the request of opposition parties to wait on the outcome of the court’s decision.

Mbete’s legal counsel argued that there is no obligation on her part to hold a secret ballot because the rules of Parliament do not provide for it.

But the UDM relied on the National Assembly Rule 103 and 104, pointing out that the rules are clear that the Speaker has the discretion to determine the voting procedure to be followed for any vote.

The UDM even went further to say that Mbete failed in her constitutional obligation to use that discretion to arrange for secret voting.

It was also argued that an open ballot would render Parliament unable to hold the president accountable, with the Economic Freedom Fighters pointing out that MPs are entitled to vote according to their conscience because their duty is to the electorate and the Constitution.

In a surprising turn, the president’s lawyer conceded that there was no downside to the secret ballot, while Mbete’s lawyers also conceded that the Speaker has the discretion to allow for a secret ballot.