The United Democratic Movement (UDM) said on Monday the Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete had failed in her obligation to ensure that a vote on a motion of no confidence in the president be done by way of a secret ballot.
Counsel for the UDM‚ Dali Mpofu‚ made this submission in the party’s application to the court to order that a parliamentary vote on a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma be conducted by secret ballot.
Mpofu said the UDM relied on Section 102 (2) of the constitution.
The section states that if the National Assembly‚ by a vote supported by a majority of its members‚ passes a motion of no confidence in the president‚ the president and the other members of the Cabinet must resign.
Mpofu said the only question that arose in this case was whether the meaning of a vote in the section meant a secret ballot was implicitly required‚ permitted or prohibited.
Mbete and Zuma have opposed the application by the UDM.
Mpofu said the only obstacle the Speaker of the National Assembly and the president had was to show that a secret ballot was prohibited.
“One of the approaches we are going to take is to demonstrate that the secret ballot cannot be prohibited‚” he argued.
“Contrary to all the commentators out there about what this matter is about. This matter is only about the interpretation to be given to the legal instrument in question; Section 102 of the Constitution.
“This case is not about the separation of powers‚ nor encroachment of the court in anything. If our interpretation of Section 102 is correct‚ this was always like that since 1996‚ when the constitution was passed.”
Mpofu also said the party would ask for a special order for Zuma to pay legal costs from his own pocket.
“The president was cited as president of the country‚ the ANC was cited as a party. The ANC decided not to be involved. The president has sought to make submissions on behalf of the ANC.”
Mpofu said if the Speaker was to be believed‚ she had no problem with the secret ballot.
“If that is so‚ what we have here is: The only person who is opposing the application that the motion of no confidence should be conducted by secret ballot is the president of the country‚” Mpofu said.
Opposition parties asked for the motion of no confidence in the president following Zuma’s controversial Cabinet reshuffle in March‚ which saw the removal of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said in his court papers the application arose from the fact that Mbete had refused the party’s request to have the voting of these motions conducted by way of secret ballot.
The actual debate and vote was postponed by Mbete last month to allow for the court application to be finalised.
Zuma has opposed the application‚ saying a ruling by the court forcing Mbete to allow MPs to vote in secret would subvert the rights of the ruling ANC‚ which has the majority in parliament.
Several motions of no confidence have failed in the past because ANC MPs traditionally close ranks around Zuma.
The matter continues.