Why UDM wants to force Parly to use secret ballots in no-confidence vote

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa has filed a Constitutional Court application to force Parliament to hold a secret vote for the no-confidence in President Jacob Zuma motion, arguing that ANC MP’s faced victimisation if they failed to toe the party line. He argues that parliamentarians owe their duty to the Constitution and not the ANC.

Mbeki took it a step further today, saying parliamentarians owed their loyalty to the people of South Africa first, and not their party.

Holomisa filed the urgent application on Sunday evening.

“This application arises from the fact that the speaker has refused UDM’s request to have the voting on these motions be conducted by way of a secret ballot”, stated Holomisa in the court papers.

The party has since been granted permission to argue its case for the secret ballot.

Calls for a secret ballot come after opposition parties proposed to table a motion of no confidence against Zuma following his decision to reshuffle his Cabinet.
Most significantly, this saw the axing of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.

As a result, citing “the anticipation of further political instability”, rating agencies Standard & Poor’s and Fitch have downgraded South Africa to junk status.

A series of countrywide protests have followed the reshuffle and the downgrade.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian, Holomisa highlighted key points that formed the basis of the UDM’s argument in the court papers:

A secret ballot is required to elect a president
The Constitution expressly requires that a secret ballot ought to be used when the president is elected. “It must follow that when the president is forced by the National Assembly to resign it must adopt the same procedure”, said Holomisa.

The absence of a secret ballot undermines the no-confidence motion
The motion of no confidence is no ordinary parliamentary decision. According to the court papers, the Constitutional Court has previously described a motion of no confidence “as the most important mechanism that may be employed by Parliament to hold the executive to account … without a secret ballot a motion of no confidence cannot properly fulfill its function as a tool to ensure maximum accountability of the president to National Assembly.”

MPs must be able to honour the Constitution freely
When it comes to a motion of no confidence, members of the National Assembly owe their first duty to the Constitution, not political parties. “A secret ballot enables them to carry out this duty without fear of reprisals and removals and enables them to stay to their prescribed oath,” the court papers noted.

“Ultimately, we want to deal with this culture of intimidation. We have lost a secretary general in the past due to intimation. We do not want this to be acceptable behaviour in South African politics. The African National Congress is known for intimidation and we want to deal with it decisively,” Holomisa said.



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