ConCourt: Speaker has power to decide on secret ballot
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says Baleka Mbete was wrong to say a secret ballot vote is not allowed in a motion of no confidence.
JOHANNESBURG – The Constitutional Court has ruled that National Speaker Baleka Mbete has the power to decide on a secret ballot in the proposed no-confidence vote in President Jacob Zuma.
The matter was brought by the UDM, EFF and Cope last month, asking the court to give Parliament the go ahead to vote in secret in a motion of no confidence against the president.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says Mbete was wrong to say a secret ballot vote is not allowed in a motion of no confidence, clarifying that parliamentary rules 103 and 104 do empower the Speaker to prescribe for secret voting.
"The Speaker says that neither the Constitution nor the rules of the National Assembly allow her to authorise a vote by secret ballot. To this extent, she was mistaken. Our interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Constitution, and the rules make it clear, that the Speaker does have the power to authorise a vote by a secret ballot in a motion of no confidence in the president in appropriate circumstances was invalid and must be set aside."
The Chief Justice also made it clear that the court can't tell the Speaker how to decide and has thrown the ball back in her court.
“It is declared that the Speaker of the National Assembly has the power to prescribe that voting in a motion of no confidence in the president of the Republic of South Africa be conducted by secret ballot.
“The United Democratic Movement’s request for a motion of no confidence in the president to be decided by secret ballot is remitted to the Speaker for her to make a fresh decision.”
The debate around the fifth motion of no confidence was scheduled for April following Zuma’s controversial Cabinet reshuffle, but it was postponed by the Speaker on the request of opposition parties to wait on the outcome of the court’s decision.
Mogoeng says the Constitutional Court says the rules of the National Assembly empower the Speaker to allow for a motion of no confidence in the president.
"She has the properly guided latitude to prescribe what she considers to be appropriate voting procedure in the circumstances. It may be necessary to add that her counsel reiterated during the hearing that the Speaker is not really opposed to a secret ballot. The president's counsel also said that the Constitution neither requires nor prohibits but in reality permits a secret ballot."
The court has ordered that the Speaker and the president must pay the costs of the UDM, EFF, IFP and Cope.
WATCH: Constitutional Court ruling
Following the ruling, the African National Congress in Parliament says that it will defeat the motion of no confidence against Zuma.
"We reiterate our long stated position that we will not support the motion of no confidence on President Jacob Zuma by opposition parties. We will defeat this motion of no confidence by the opposition as we have successfully done so in the previous 4 motions tabled in this 5th term of Parliament," the ANC said in a statement.