Experts: Baleka Mbete in a corner over secret ballot
While the Constitutional Court has not ordered her to allow a secret ballot, experts believe the Speaker doesn't have much room to manoeuvre.
JOHANNESBURG - While National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete applies her mind to the Constitutional Court judgment on a secret vote in a no confidence motion in the president, she's reiterated she has never been opposed to such a move.
While the court has not ordered her to allow a secret ballot, experts believe the Speaker doesn't have much room to manoeuvre.
On Thursday, the court ruled Mbete was mistaken when she said that neither the Constitution nor parliamentary rules allow her to authorise a secret vote.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has clarified that Mbete does have the power to allow for a secret ballot.
“Now that it has been explained that she has the power to that which she is not averse to, she has the properly guided latitude to prescribe what she considers the appropriate voting procedure.”
He even reminded the court that the Speaker admitted the confusion around her powers to allow for a secret ballot was the reason she didn’t arrange for this kind of voting.
Now that rules have been simplified, the court now wants her to make a rational decision.
“There must always be a proper and rational basis for whatever choice the speaker makes.”
Constitutional Court experts believe this ruling essentially corners Mbete to allow for a secret ballot.
The Court confirmed the United Democratic Movement’s (UDM) application to allow Parliament to hold a motion of no confidence in the president in secret is about executive accountability.
“When all the regular checks and balances seem to be ineffective or a serious accountability breach is sought to have occurred, then the citizens’ best interest could at times demand a resort to the ultimate accountability ensuring mechanisms.”
Meanwhile, Parliament has confirmed it has already received a request from the Democratic Alliance for the speaker to arrange for a motion of no confidence in the president.
WATCH: Constitutional Court ruling
The African National Congress (ANC) has described the UDM’s application as frivolous and vexatious.
The party has welcomed the ruling, saying the court will not decide how Mbete exercises her discretion.
The ANC has also expressed its confidence that the speaker will apply her mind before she takes any decision.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu says his party will make sure that the judgment is obeyed and that they will not object to a plan to hold a vote by secret ballot.
But Mthembu says they know that their MPs will vote to keep President Zuma in power.
He says Mbete now has to take this issue to Parliament's rules committee.
“As part of that multi-party forum, we will not be found wanting. We will not be obstructionists to any views that say there must be a secret ballot to this matter.”
(Edited by Shimoney Regter)