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Mapisa-Nqakula wants secret ballot matter dismissed for lack of urgency

National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. File photo.
National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. File photo.
Image: Zwelethemba Kostile / Parliament

National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula wants the urgent application by the ATM to force her to allow a secret ballot in the vote for a motion of no confidence against President Cyril Ramaphosa dismissed.

Mapisa-Nqakula, in her responding papers, stated that the application was not urgent because the ATM did not go straight to court after she made her decision last month.

The motion of no confidence in Ramaphosa is due to be heard on Wednesday, the same day that the National Assembly is due to discuss a motion of no confidence in the whole cabinet — but excluding Ramaphosa — which was brought by the DA.

“The speaker considered this question and made her decision as long ago as February 16. She decided that an open vote should be held. She immediately notified the ATM of her decision and her reasons. Yet, the ATM did not at that point initiate legal proceedings to challenge that decision — either on an urgent basis or in the ordinary course.

“Instead, the ATM engaged in a request to ask the speaker herself to review her own decision,” Mapisa-Nqakula said in her heads of argument.

The matter is being heard by the Western Cape High Court on Monday. Should the ATM win its case, this may cause a headache for the National Assembly which would have to organise a physical sitting for the vote.

The National Assembly does not have an online system to allow for a virtual secret ballot.

Mapisa-Nqakula said, “As we demonstrate in what follows, the ATM’s case is contrived and unsustainable. This is so for the following reasons. The decision of February 16 was plainly lawful and valid. The ATM puts up no proper basis to impugn it. The letter of March 9 does not change this. 

“Whatever one makes of that letter, the position is that the speaker was by then long since functus officio and her decision was (and is) binding unless reviewed and set aside. The ATM’s attempt to focus on the letter of March 9 is artificial and contrived,” she said.

She argues that the urgency was self-created by the ATM and asks the court to dismiss the application.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the ATM received her decision declining the secret vote on February 16 and the party was entitled to go to court thereafter.

“The ATM addressed yet another letter to the speaker on February 25, nine calendar days later. This time, the ATM requested the speaker to 'review' her own decision that she had made and communicated on February 16. In essence, the ATM spent nine days between February 16 and 25 not launching these proceedings — which it now contends are urgent — after a decision had been made by the speaker. 

“Yet, despite this, this application was ultimately launched only on March 14, some 18 calendar days from when the decision was communicated to the ATM.”

The Sunday Times reported that the DA was also considering going the legal route in a bid to force Mapisa-Nqakula to allow a secret ballot for its own motion.

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