Secret ballot buoys SA opposition

Secret ballot buoys SA opposition

August 7  2017 – AFTER  a rather surprising announcement by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete that a vote of no confidence would happen via a secret ballot, opposition parties were buoyed on Monday, by the prospect that their eighth attempt to remove President Jacob Zuma from office.

“Having considered all the factors, and mindful of the fact that this decision is not setting a precedent, I determine that voting on the motion of no confidence in the President on 8 August 2017 will be by secret ballot,” Mbete told journalists at a media briefing in Parliament, reading a statement and not taking questions.

“The value of openness and transparency is always our natural manner of conducting business, and which we should never take for granted.”

Mbete said she took to heart what the Constitutional Court said, including if there was a prevailing toxic or highly charged atmosphere.

“I also understand and accept that central to the freedom of a Member of Parliament (Member) ‘to follow the dictates of personal conscience’ is the fact that the Member takes an oath of office of faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution and laws, and there is no constitutional obligation for a Member to swear allegiance to his or her political party.”

Shortly after the briefing the ruling African National Congress (ANC) released a statement, insisting a secret vote would not change the outcome as the party has full confidence in its members to toe the party line. 

“We do not nor have we ever doubted their loyalty and discipline in relation to the decisions of the movement. Accordingly, we have no doubt that this frivolous motion, which has been hyped up by opposition parties as some sort of Damascus moment, will fail like many before it,” said ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa.

Several ANC MPs and other senior leaders have criticised Zuma, with some going as far as publicly supporting the motion of no confidence, which had led to them either being gagged or disciplined by party structures.

A grouping of opposition parties were however not convinced. 

Holding an impromptu media briefing outside the National Assembly, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh, African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe, Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald, and Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota, have all been on the phone with ANC MPs, saying some have agreed to break ranks with their party position.

Maimane described Mbete’s decision as historic.

“The judgment safeguards and brings a victory to the Constitution of the republic and the supremacy of the rule of law,” he said.

Maimane said her decision also gave the country’s leaders the best opportunity steer South Africa in the right direction.

If the motion does pass, Mbete becomes the acting president, pending parliamentary elections being called within 30 days. 

So convinced was Malema the vote would go the opposition’s way, he already referred to Mbete as acting president.

“There are no holy cows. There can’t be special rules for others so if Baleka can go against the party line it means they [ANC MPs] can go against the party line,” he said.

He denied cash being offered to ANC MPs as inducement, and said this was an attempt to discredit his claims that he was persuading “die-hard” ANC MPs.

“Many of them have said to us, if it’s secret he [Zuma] is gone. It’s not like we are just bluffing. We are serious about it.”

The National Assembly is made up of 400 MPs — with the ANC having 249 MPs — the majority in the House. The opposition needs 201 votes (that means the help of ANC MPs to remove Zuma.

In similar motion in November last year, a vote for Zuma to stay garnered 214 votes, while 126 voted against. One person sustained and another 58 did not vote at all.

The motion will be debated at 2pm on Tuesday afternoon.

Mbete’s decision comes despite Zuma throwing cold water on the suggestion when he appeared in the Assembly to answer questions earlier this year.

“Let us vote the way we will be voting all the time,” Zuma said at the time.

“We have got instruments here. You are trying to get a majority you don’t have. I think it’s not fair, because you are trying to increase the majority you don’t 
Let us vote the way we will be voting all the time. – ANA