Speaker 'applying her mind afresh' to ATM's secret ballot request for motion of no-confidence in Ramaphosa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • The ATM resubmitted the motion after a SCA ruling in its favour.
  • The motion will only be heard next year, as Parliament rises on Friday.
  • The saga dates back to February 2020.

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is "applying her mind afresh" to whether the ATM's motion of no-confidence in President Cyril Ramaphosa should be by secret ballot.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in the ATM's favour and found that former speaker Thandi Modise misinterpreted her discretionary powers.

The SCA found it was a "fundamentally flawed" approach by Modise to place the onus on ATM to motivate why the motion of no-confidence should be by secret ballot.

The SCA ordered that the Speaker - now Mapisa-Nqakula - make a "fresh decision" on the matter.

READ | SCA finds in favour of ATM in its quest for a secret ballot in motion against Ramaphosa

Subsequently, the ATM resubmitted its motion of no-confidence in Ramaphosa, again requesting that it be by secret ballot.

In an email to Mapisa-Nqakula, dated 7 December 2021, ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula argued that since Ramaphosa took the reins, "irregular expenditure in government and state-owned entities (SOEs) increased to R61.35 billion in the 2018/2019 audit period, from R50.1 billion in the previous year and SOEs continue to collapse, without anyone being held accountable for this gross behaviour".

He also submitted that Ramaphosa misled the nation about load shedding when he promised that it would be a thing of the past.

"The president has grossly mismanaged the economy so that there has been a loss of confidence by local and international investors; under the president's watch there has been an increase in corruption, inequality, and unemployment."

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Parliament confirmed that Mapisa-Nqakula received the new request for a motion of no-confidence in Ramaphosa and that it should be conducted by secret ballot.

"The ATM's motivation draws parallels with the factors that prevailed in 2017 when the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) delivered its judgment on the United Democratic Movement's (UDM) call for a secret ballot.

"The Concourt directed that a secret vote becomes necessary where the prevailing atmosphere is 'toxified or highly charged'. The ATM argues, in their submission to the Speaker, that a closed ballot is the only rational possibility in the prevailing circumstances," a statement from Parliament's spokesperson Moloto Mothapo stated.

"Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula is applying her mind afresh, to the motivation of the ATM for a secret ballot. She will decide and announce her decision in due course. Last week's Supreme Court of Appeal judgment affirmed the powers of the speaker to decide the best mode or procedure of voting by Members of the National Assembly, as she deems appropriate, informed by the prevailing context."

READ | ATM resubmits motion of no confidence against President Cyril Ramaphosa

The saga started in February 2020, when Zungula lodged a motion of no-confidence in Ramaphosa with Modise.

Zungula also requested a secret ballot for the vote on the motion, which Modise denied.

In late November, the motion was scheduled for 3 December. Again, ATM unsuccessfully petitioned Modise to have the motion voted on by secret ballot.

On the day the motion was to be heard, the party asked the Western Cape High Court to review Modise's decision, and the motion was postponed.

The High Court dismissed the ATM's application, but the party appealed to the SCA.

At the time the ATM initially brought the motion, it seemed unlikely to garner much support from other parties, with the two biggest parties in the National Assembly, the ANC and DA, publicly stating that they would not support it. 

Parliament rises for the year on Friday, and the motion, therefore, could only be heard early next year.

Since being elected president in February 2018, Ramaphosa had not faced a motion of no-confidence. His predecessor, corruption-accused Jacob Zuma, survived six motions of no-confidence during his nine years in office, the first within his first year. There was also a withdrawn motion and an unsuccessful motion to impeach Zuma.

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