Melanie Verwoerd

The not-so-secret secret ballot

2017-08-16 08:22
PHOT: Supplied GCIS

PHOT: Supplied GCIS

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

The secret ballot last Tuesday was almost not-so-secret. A few hours before the National Assembly was due to convene to decide the motion of no-confidence in President Zuma, the opposition parties made an interesting discovery.

The ballot papers that were to be used were numbered from one to 400. With MPs to be called alphabetically to cast there vote, it would have been a no-brainer to figure out which way individual MPs had voted.

So the opposition objected and the ballot papers had to be reprinted without numbers. Of course this further confirmed the fear of many ANC MPs that the vote would never truly be secret.

The result of the ballot is now well-known. Zuma survived, despite 30 odd ANC MPs either voting with the opposition or abstaining. After the vote ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa claimed that the outcome was a triumph for democracy.

But almost immediately large groups of Zuma-ites started to bay for blood. In true Erdogan and other dictators’ style, many now want to have those who voted against the president publicly exposed and “dealt with”. 

Fikile Mbalula (our minister of police – nogal!) who had already in July warned that ANC MPs would be committing political suicide should they vote for the motion, called for lie-detector tests.

ANC Youth League general secretary Njabulo Nzuza called the ANC MPs who had voted for the motion “askaris” and said that they had to be hunted down and kicked out of the organisation.

Presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma whipped up crowds at a Women’s Day rally, saying that those MPs should leave the ANC. “They must go!” the crowd chanted repeatedly in response. Even Zweli Mkhize said that those MPs should be disciplined.

Most chillingly the Gupta TV channel spent almost an hour analysing a social media list of 26 names that had supposedly voted for the motion. A panel of pro-Zuma commentators discussed every name and the channel phoned various MPs on the list in order to get them to deny or confirm which way they voted.

Some of the panelists also repeatedly claimed (without providing any proof) that the MPs who voted for the motion had been paid by the opposition and were thus so corrupt that they could not belong in the ANC.

It beggars belief that this can be said with a straight face by Zuma supporters on the Gupta owned TV channel.

Which raises the question: which part of SECRET do these ANC members and pro-Zuma/Gupta commentators and media not understand?

Why have a secret ballot at all if straight afterwards you demand to know how ANC MPs voted – in order to have them disciplined? Or is it that the ballot is only secret as long as all ANC members voted the way the party instructed them to vote?

The pro-Zuma ANC members should also be reminded that the vote wasn’t declared secret by Mmusi Maimane or Julius Malema or even the Chief Justice. The decision for a secret ballot was made by Baleka Mbete, who is the National Chairperson, not of the DA or EFF, but of the ANC!

All those who are now screaming that ANC MPs should be outed and ousted should read Mbete’s press statement when she announced her reasoning for the secret ballot. She said:

“The Constitutional Court indicated that the electorate is at times entitled to know how their representatives carry out even some of their most sensitive obligations and this includes voting in a motion of no confidence. However, this reality may not always be possible where there are instances of intimidation. In terms of the Constitutional Court judgment if Members are constitutionally obliged to vote according to their conscience it follows that no Member can suffer any harm, hardship or punitive action if they comply with the Constitution and vote according to their conscience. A reading of the Constitutional Court judgment suggests that any action of a political party against a public representative who voted in accordance with their conscience may be struck down for violating the Constitution.”

This also applies to the ANC office bearers who have decided that disciplinary action will be taken against three or four ANC MPS who supposedly declared that they voted for the motion.

They should also read the number of legal opinions by senior counsels who agree that any attempt to discipline MPs for exercising their vote according to their conscience would be contrary to the Constitution and would therefore make the ANC vulnerable to big law suits.

But of course all of these utterances will most likely not result in large scale disciplinary action. It is intended to intimidate and prevent any further dissent in the ANC and especially any opposition to the President.

Thus my statement last week that President Zuma is now stronger than ever before. You would assume that Zuma, as president of the ANC, would berate those who are threatening fellow comrades. Quite the opposite.

Over the weekend he also called for those who “have two hearts – one for the ANC and one for the opposition” to be disciplined. As we get closer to the electoral conference he clearly wants those who oppose him exposed and neutralised.

The reactions of the president and the rest of the pro-Zuma camp send an ominous message about the outcome of the electoral conference. It clearly shows that the Zuma camp will not tolerate any possible victory by those who want change in the ANC. It also shows that they will go to extraordinary lengths to prevent this from happening.

So, a victory for democracy? I don’t think so. 

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. 

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

* Only comments that contribute to a constructive debate will be approved by moderators.


SHARE: publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.