This week in Parliament: 3 unprecedented events

2017-08-11 16:54
Members of parliament prepare to vote for or against the motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday. (File, AP)

Members of parliament prepare to vote for or against the motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday. (File, AP)

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WATCH: The moment Mbete announced #NoConfidenceVote will be secret ballot

2017-08-08 11:40

National Assembly Speaker Ms Baleka Mbete addressed the media on the voting procedure to be followed, when the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma is debated in the National Assembly on Tuesday. Watch. WATCH

Cape Town - Parliament, an institution governed by rules, procedures and precedent, seldom if ever delivers three events in one week that can be described as "unprecedented".

But this past week, it did just that.

1. A secret vote for a motion

On Monday, to the surprise of many, Speaker Baleka Mbete announced, after a cough for dramatic effect, that the vote in the next day's motion of no confidence would be determined by secret ballot.

This, after the matter that was raised by the UDM also made a turn in the Constitutional Court, which ruled that Mbete had to determine whether the vote would be by secret or open ballot.

This meant that, for the first time in the democratic Parliament's existence, a secret ballot was used to vote for a motion. A secret ballot is used when the National Assembly elects the president and speaker, as prescribed by the Constitution.

This is not the only reason that Mbete's decision is notable. Most of her decisions as speaker have been criticised by the opposition, with the constant refrain that she is putting her party (of which she is the national chairperson) before that of Parliament or the country. The secret ballot decision, however, was lauded by the opposition, with the National Assembly's enfant terrible, the EFF, even jumping up to welcome her with a standing ovation when she arrived in the House late in the debate on the motion of no confidence.

2. ANC MP's broke ranks

When the previous motions of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma were heard, it seemed inconceivable that ANC MPs would support it. But on Tuesday the inconceivable became a reality as between 25 and 40 ANC MPs put their cross behind "support" on the secret ballots for the motion.

Although it was expected that some ANC MPs would "vote with their conscience" in Tuesday's motion of no confidence, the estimated numbers represent more MPs than had publicly made known their intentions to vote for the motion.

It should be noted, however, that the dissent in the ANC benches wasn't enough to knock Zuma off his presidential perch.

3. A call to dissolve

On Wednesday, the DA announced that it would table a motion the following day, that the National Assembly should be dissolved. If successful, this would necessitate an early national election. This is the first motion of its kind.

The DA's motive seems to be that Parliament, with its ANC majority, is unable to remove Zuma, and the electorate should be given the opportunity to do so.

It seems highly unlikely to succeed. Not only is it highly unlikely that any ANC MPs will support this motion, but other opposition parties didn't display any appetite for supporting the motion either.

While DA leader Mmusi Maimane said on Monday that Mbete's decision on the secret ballot proved that, together, the opposition can do more, the other opposition parties seemed excluded from this plan.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  jacob zuma  |  baleka mbete  |  mmusi maimane

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