Published: Tue, May 16, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

S.Africa court to rule on Zuma confidence vote

S.Africa court to rule on Zuma confidence vote

In the eyes of the law and in this case in particular, the Speaker was a constitutional representative of Parliament.

South Africa's top court is debating whether legislators can cast secret ballots in a no-confidence vote in President Jacob Zuma as hundreds protest in Johannesburg demanding his removal.

The UDM reportedly claims that ANC MPs are being intimidated to prevent them from voting with the opposition against Zuma.

Zuma, who came to office in 2009, is due to step down as head of the ANC in December, and as national president ahead of the 2019 general election.

ANC MP Mcebisi Skwatsha said "irrespective of what the Concourt says, I'm going to vote according to my party line, there's no two ways about it".

The thinking behind the court action was that the ANC MPs would not publicly vote with opposition parties to remove the president, but they could do so if the vote was held in secret.

Dali Mpofu, for the UDM, implored the court to look at the section in the Constitution which explains the goal of the protection of a secret ballot.

"Our case is very simple".

Anton Katz, for the Inkatha Freedom Party, said every motion of no confidence should be dealt with by secret ballot. The President has denied the claims in court papers, but says that there is no constitutional mandate for the vote to be done in secret. To protect the voter against possible intimidation, risk of any threats, of any adverse consequences.

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"What would explain this court's position that you have a discretion but we are telling you now that it must be by secret ballot".

Mpofu said the speaker of National Assembly had the duty to schedule or arrange for a date and a vote.

UDM advocate Dali Mpofu said the only question that arose in this case was the meaning of the words "a vote" in section 102 of the constitution: Did it imply that a secret ballot was required, permit a secret ballot or prohibit a secret ballot?

"She has an obligation to choose a voting method when asked to do so, she has abdicated to do so".

Zuma and Mbete have asked for the application to be dismissed. Ngcukaitobi said this was because the ANC held a "super majority" in Parliament and there was an "uncontested threat of party discipline" against ANC MPs who failed to follow the party line.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng asked Moerane if, based on the provisions in the Constitution, it was permissible for the National Assembly to conduct the vote by secret ballot.

He said the National Assembly had determined its own rules and it, and not the courts, should decide how to conduct a motion of no confidence.

"When the Speaker receives a request for a secret ballot, she has an obligation to go back and look at the rules. There could be consequences for this", he said.

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