Secret ballot in the best interests of the country - Mbete

2017-08-07 18:03
National Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete. (Paul Herman, News24)

National Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete. (Paul Herman, News24)

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Cape Town - National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete says her decision to hold the upcoming motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma via secret ballot is in the best interests of the country.

In what was a surprise move for many, Mbete announced in Parliament on Monday that the eighth motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma will be through a secret ballot on Tuesday.

Mbete told the gathered media that it was important to listen to the doubts that society had expressed in Parliament and democracy recently.

Read the full statement here

"The people of South Africa look to Parliament to give direction during challenging times. We must dare not underestimate this privilege and responsibility.

"The people of South Africa also look to Parliament for signals of hope.

"I have considered the environment and heard voices expressing doubt in the integrity and values of our 20-year-old Constitution."

Parliament therefore had to use the opportunity to show responsiveness to the people, she said.

"This decision is, therefore, in the best interest of the country," she said.

'Having considered all the factors...'

Her duty as Speaker was to guard the integrity of the House, without fear or favour, and ensure the outcome of the vote was credible.

"It is with that in mind that this decision is also about putting the resilience of our democratic institution to test.

"Having considered all the factors, and mindful that this decision was not setting a precedent... I therefore determine that voting on the motion of no confidence in the president on August 8 will be by secret ballot."

The room momentarily went silent immediately following the decision, as she stepped away from the podium.

Also read: Secret ballot announcement a 'surprise' - analysts

Mbete earlier said she had taken all the requisite independent, legal and Constitutional factors into account in reaching her decision in a rational and balanced way

She took into account the Constitutional Court's ruling that members of Parliament swear an oath to the Republic of South Africa and that there was no obligation for a member to swear allegiance to their political party.

Openness and transparency was the usual way in which Parliament conducted its work, and was important for society that the National Assembly operate in an open manner.

'Spirit of transparency'

Openness demanded courage and boldness from Members of Parliament, and the electorate was entitled to know how the work of Parliament is worked out.

The court, however, indicated that there were exceptional circumstances where a secret ballot was permissible, in the event that the prevailing environment was "toxic or highly charged".

No member could be subject to punitive measures if they had voted with their conscience.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said before the announcement that a press conference of this kind was unprecedented, but was warranted due to the huge public interest.

Mbete said she had taken the decision to announce it publicly in the spirit of transparency, but would only allow media questions at a follow-up session.

She also said the public calls by opposition parties that she would act in a partisan manner were "reprehensible and unpalatable" for democracy.

She was elected as National Assembly Speaker and would therefore not recuse herself during the debate on Tuesday, Mbete added.

Opposition parties, meanwhile, hosted a press conference of its own outside the steps of the National Assembly.

Read more on:    baleka mbete  |  no confidence vote

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