Editorials 17.5.2017 05:09 am

Mbete’s role with secret vote clear

Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Marumo Moerane, appearing for Mbete, conceded the speaker was obliged to act in accordance to the rules of parliament, which indeed permit a secret ballot.

After nearly 10 hours of legal arguments before the Constitutional Court on Monday, people are now waiting with bated breath to find out whether the motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma can be decided through a secret ballot.

The application was made by the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and has the support of other opposition parties. It is intended to protect ANC MPs, who could face repercussions should they vote against the president.

Although judgment in the matter was reserved by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, some of the concessions made by the legal representatives for Zuma and National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete give rise to some optimism among the opposition.

Importantly, Ishmael Semenya, appearing for Zuma, was forced to concede that there would be no downside to holding a secret ballot, while Marumo Moerane, appearing for Mbete, conceded the speaker was obliged to act in accordance to the rules of parliament, which indeed permit a secret ballot.

Although none of this compels the speaker to allow a secret ballot, it removes any doubt as to whether the discretion for allowing such a move lies with her.

Mbete initially claimed it is not within her powers – which made for a seemingly easy way out for the speaker who has, in the past, been accused of unfairly protecting Zuma.

At least the concessions go some way to swinging the argument from why a secret vote should be allowed.

And this should make it a bit trickier for Mbete to justify her decision should she deem a secret ballot should not be permitted.

Perhaps Dali Mpofu, speaking on behalf of the UDM, summed it up best when he said all South Africans wanted, was to know that members of parliament – who had been elected to represent them – were voting with integrity.

A secret vote would ensure that.

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