The United Democratic Movement (UDM) has accused the Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete of “unduly raising public alarm” in her opposition to its court application to have a motion of no confidence in the president decided by way of a secret ballot.
The party’s leader Bantu Holomisa on Wednesday filed an affidavit with the Constitutional Court‚ replying to papers filed by Mbete and President Jacob Zuma.
The UDM approached the Constitutional Court after Mbete refused its request to have the motion of no confidence against Zuma conducted by a secret ballot. It argued that an open vote could see ANC MPs face intimidation if they did not toe the party’s line.
Both Mbete and Zuma have opposed the UDM’s application.
Replying to arguments by Mbete and Zuma that the UDM’s application undermined the doctrine of the separation of powers‚ Holomisa said:
“No party in the present litigation‚ and certainly not the applicant‚ intends to dispute the first part of that dictum regarding the National Assembly’s control of its own procedures‚ which is inherently a matter of separation of powers.
“What is at issue is whether such procedures are ‘consistent with the Constitution and the law’‚ which is inherently a matter of constitutional interpretation. Accordingly‚ this application does not involve the separation of powers doctrine.”
Holomisa also denied that the UDM’s application was an attempt to embroil the court in political controversy‚ as Mbete had suggested in her affidavit.
“The attempt by the Speaker to raise the spectre of this application being ‘calculated to embroil this Court in political controversy’ is unfounded. This point can only have been made for the sake of rhetoric and unduly raising public alarm. Our courts have never shied away from deciding legal matters on the grounds of ‘political’ implications and would surely not start doing so now.”
In Zuma’s opposing papers‚ he argued that the UDM’s claim that ANC MPs could suffer intimidation if the motion was decided by an open vote was spurious‚ but Holomisa disputed this:
“The President’s own affidavit makes clear that the ANC will not hesitate to give an instruction to its members to vote in a particular way and will proceed to take whatever steps are necessary to discipline those who vote in any way other than as directed.”
Zuma also said that his decision to reshuffle his cabinet last month‚ which prompted the motion‚ was lawful.
Holomisa said the president’s argument on this issue was entirely beside the point.
“What is relevant is that the decisions were ill-judged‚ hasty and have had extraordinarily negative (and foreseeable) economic consequences. The UDM wishes to persuade other members of the National Assembly that in light of this‚ the President should no longer enjoy their confidence. The secret ballot will allow members of the National Assembly to give effect to their conscience in this regard.”
The Inkatha Freedom Party and the Council for the Advancement of the South Constitution have filed papers in support of the UDM’s application.
The motion of no confidence was postponed pending the outcome of the Constitutional Court application.