The African Transformation Movement (ATM) is taking its secret ballot fight to Parliamentary Speaker Thandi Modise. The party now enlisting legal counsel to force her to bow to its demand of having the presidential motion of no confidence a secret ballot vote.
The motion against President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled for Thursday.
Having agreed to the motion tabled by the ATM, Modise declined to grant the party’s request to have the vote take place under a secret ballot. An open ballot means every MP will follow the party line, while a secret ballot allows for MPs to deviate, making it much more unpredictable.
The ANC, with the most votes, has indicated that it will instruct members to support Ramaphosa.
Modise said the ATM, with only two seats in Parliament, did not make a compelling argument as to why it sought a secret ballot.
In a letter addressed to Modise by AJ Magigaba from M. Magigaba Incorporated Attorneys representing the ATM, the party took the opportunity to outline why it thought a secret ballot would ensure an outcome more reflective of the general feeling towards Ramaphosa.
“A secret ballot,” the letter reads “allows members to honour their constitutional obligation without fear”.
The party argued that “dishonest votes” made by members persuaded by party lines as a result of an open ballot “are adverse or injurious not so much to the individual member, but to our democracy”.
The ATM’s legal representative reiterated that “some members of the governing party may have been persuaded by the solid grounds for the motion of no confidence, but may be constrained by [the] party line” which might hinder their obligation to their oath of office and to the people of South Africa
The ATM has been banking on the factions within the ANC and hoping that some disgruntled members would vote with them and ensure that they reach the two-thirds majority required to unseat the president.
According to Magigaba, some ANC MPs (especially ministers) could be persuaded not to vote with the ATM in an open ballot because they were appointed by Ramaphosa.
“It is also common cause that the entire executive is appointed by the president and therefore would be constrained in exercising their constitutional obligation without fear, because in the event the motion is not successful they would have seriously compromised themselves and may be dismissed afterwards and replaced with those that are more loyal to the president or the party,” said the ATM legal representative.
He also argued that: “It is common cause that some members of Parliament [the EFF’s Tebogo Mokwele and Nkagisang Mokgosi] were also beneficiaries of the CR17 campaign such that at least two members of the opposition party have since been removed from Parliament by their party structures.
“The honourable Speaker would be well advised to err on the side of caution and not rule out that more opposition members could be in the pockets of the CR17 campaign fund, that financed the election machinery for Ramaphosa, and thus would be inclined on a quid pro quo basis to vote to honour their money commitment rather than their conscience,” said Magigaba.
Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo was not readily available for comment on whether Modise had received the letter from ATM’s legal representatives.