Parliament on Tuesday said National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete held no position on a Constitutional Court challenge by the United Democratic Movement (UDM) to have voting on a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma conducted through a secret ballot.
A statement released by the national legislature said an incorrect impression had been created in the media that it intended to oppose the UDM application. The Court on Tuesday afternoon granted the party direct access to argue its case before it.
“We wish to state that, with regard to whether motions of this nature ought to be conducted by way of a secret vote, the Speaker of the National Assembly holds no position on the matter. Where the Speaker and the UDM disagree is in relation to the powers of the Speaker under the Constitution to make such a determination,” the statement said.
The UDM took parliament to court after Mbete last week rejected the party’s call for a secret ballot on the motion following Zuma’s much-criticised Cabinet reshuffle, saying it was unconstitutional, as there were no parliamentary rules allowing for the secret ballot.
“Section 102 of the Constitution, which outlines the procedure for motions of no confidence, makes no provision for voting to be conducted through a secret ballot. Similarly, the rules of the National Assembly do not provide for secret voting,” parliament added.
The legislature said in 2015 the Western Cape High Court concurred with its argument that such a provision was invalid when it dismissed a similar application brought by Agang SA seeking the same order.
“The court ruled, among others, that there was no implied or express constitutional requirement for voting by secret ballot in motions of no confidence in the President.”
The motion is set to be debated in the National Assembly on Tuesday, April 18. But the UDM’s application might lead to the vote being postponed, as parties who oppose its legal action have until 12am on Thursday to respond to the court.
The UDM has to file a reply by 4pm on Wednesday, April 19.