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Secret ballot has no basis in law – Mbete

Publish date: 10 April 2017
Issue Number: 721
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa

Speaker Baleka Mbete has said she has no powers to decide if a motion of no confidence vote should be conducted through a secret ballot or not, says a News24 report. Mbete was responding to a letter from UDM lawyers demanding a secret ballot for the motion of no confidence vote against President Jacob Zuma on 18 April. ‘Our client has reason to believe that the outcome of the vote might be unduly tainted by allegiance to extraneous considerations other than "faithfulness to the republic and obedience to the Constitution". In particular, our client is in possession of evidence of intimidatory tactics aimed at the voters by senior members of the ruling ANC, including statements that those who may vote in favour of the motion will be expelled from Parliament. This will defeat the purpose of even holding the vote,’ the UDM said. It was in the interest of the public for the proposal to be accepted, the party said. Parliamentary rules also do not prohibit the use of a secret ballot in a motion of no confidence vote, the UDM added. However, Mbete responded that ‘voting procedures in the assembly are determined by the Constitution and the rules of the assembly. Your client's demands that the motion of no confidence be determined by way of secret ballot cannot be acceded to, as it does not have any basis in law,’ Mbete told the UDM.

Full News24 report

The UDM has subsequently gone to court on the issue, says a report in The Mercury. UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said they went to court because they wanted to force Parliament to agree to the secret ballot. He said this was ‘Plan B’ for the opposition and they hoped the Western Cape High Court would rule in their favour. National Assembly Secretary Masibulele Xaso said last week the rules only allow the secret ballot during the election of the President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Holomisa said the court would make a determination as to how the matter should be handled.

Full report in The Mercury (subscription needed)