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Speaker asked to step aside in Zuma debate

Publish date: 17 July 2017
Issue Number: 734
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa

Opposition parties in Parliament have formally asked Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete to recuse herself from presiding over the upcoming debate on the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma‚ saying it would be inappropriate for her to preside over it, says a TimesLIVE report. The request was made in a letter written by UDM leader Bantu Holomisa on behalf of his party as well as the leaders of the ACDP‚ African People’s Convention‚ COPE‚ DA‚ EFF and IFP. Holomisa stated that the parties had met on 13 July and resolved that it would not be proper for Mbete to preside over the debate. The parties based their argument on the following grounds: Mbete was on record instructing ANC MPs in the National Assembly to vote in favour of their President; in the event of the success of the motion‚ Mbete was enjoined by the Constitution to act as President; and she is also in the running for ANC president and by extension the President of the country. ‘Making matters worse is your recent attack on the judiciary. You have said that certain judges are biased against your party. Your action undermines your duty to act as liaison between Parliament‚ as an institution‚ and the other arms of state. It means that you still fail to separate your role as the head of the National Assembly and that of ANC chairperson.’

Full TimesLIVE report

However, the opposition parties are refusing to be part of the actual decision on the secret ballot matter. They want Mbete to take that decision alone, says a City Press report. Friday was the last day for parties to have their say on whether the vote should be secret or not. Despite the Constitutional Court clarifying last month that the powers to make a determination regarding voting procedures rest solely with the Speaker, Mbete invited views from interested parties regarding their preferred means of voting on this particular motion. ‘The views of the parties, considered together with a host of other factors, including the prevailing conditions, would assist the Speaker to arrive at a well-informed and logical decision,’ said Parliament in a 30 June statement. Speaking for the ANC caucus, Nonceba Mhlauli said the submission of the ANC parliamentary caucus was that it would respect and support whatever decision the Speaker made. In the DA’s submission, party leader Mmusi Maimane writes: ‘The Constitutional Court was quite explicit that this decision now lies with you as Speaker, and that whatever decision you take must meet the test of rationality. In the event that your decision is challenged at a later date, it will be a complicating factor to have asked leaders of parties for their views upfront, when these views will then form part of that later legal challenge,’ said Maimane.

Full City Press report