Motion of no confidence in Ramaphosa: ATM heads to court over open voting

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Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise.
Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise.
Jan Gerber, News24
  • Speaker Thandi Modise rejected the ATM's request for the motion of no confidence in President Cyril Ramaphosa to be voted on by secret ballot.
  • The ATM will challenge the decision in court.
  • Modise highlighted the importance of Parliament conducting its business in the open.

As public representatives, MPs shouldn't operate under a veil of secrecy, Parliament said after the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, denied the ATM's request to reconsider having Thursday's motion of no confidence in President Cyril Ramaphosa voted on by secret ballot.

In response, the ATM has indicated that it will head to court.

Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said Parliament is, as yet, not aware of any court proceedings and will deal with it once it is brought.

The ATM first lodged the motion with Modise in February and requested a secret ballot.

READ | ATM enlists legal assistance to force secret ballot in Ramaphosa motion of no confidence

Last week, the secretary to Parliament, Masibulelo Xaso, told the National Assembly Programming Committee that Modise approved the ATM's motion of no confidence and she suggested that it be placed on the National Assembly's programme for Thursday's plenary.

Parliament also announced that Modise declined the ATM's request for a secret ballot.

Secret ballot 

On Friday, the ATM wrote to Modise, requesting her to reconsider her decision on the secret ballot.

"ATM is of the firm view that the conditions that empower the Speaker to exercise her discretion for the secret ballot are in abundance. Without being exhaustive, it is a public record that at least two opposition party Members of Parliament were removed from Parliament by their own party because it was found that they were beneficiaries of the CR17 campaign funds," wrote ATM leader Vuyolwethu Zungula.

"This alone is reason enough to corroborate a legitimate suspicion that perhaps more Members of Parliament are beneficiaries of CR17 campaign Funds and thus might find it very difficult to vote against President Ramaphosa after benefitting personally and, in fact, maybe risking their lives and livelihoods. This issue is very serious in this unfortunate climate of political killings and purging."

He also referred to the ANC's factional battles, saying some in the ANC are no longer supportive of Ramaphosa.

"The Speaker, therefore, acting impartially with due regard to some of the examples mentioned above has to ensure that the voting process is credible and reflects the constitutional obligations of Members of Parliament. There is no rationale in holding an open election process when the environment is awash with the level of toxicity that is out there for everyone to see."

On Monday, the ATM's lawyers also wrote to Modise with a request to reconsider.

On Tuesday, Mothapo announced in a statement that Modise had declined the request, saying that the Constitution empowers the Speaker to prescribe how voting in a motion of no confidence in the president may be conducted, considering prevailing pertinent factors.

"Section 1(d) of the Constitution sets openness as a fundamental principle of our democracy and the Constitution enjoins the National Assembly to conduct its business in an open and transparent manner. In making a decision, the Speaker must therefore consider the constitutional imperatives of transparency, openness and public participation, on one hand, and ensuring MPs can exercise their functions without intimidation or hardship, on the other hand," reads the statement.

Intimidation 

In 2017, the Constitutional Court indicated that a secret ballot becomes necessary, where the prevailing atmosphere is toxified or highly charged.

"The ATM has not offered proof of a highly charged atmosphere, intimidation of any member or any demonstrable evidence of threats against the lives of members and their families, which may warrant a secret ballot.

ALSO READ | ATM's motion of no confidence in Ramaphosa will be voted next week by an open ballot

"As public representatives of the electorate, members are not supposed to always operate under a veil of secrecy. Considerations of transparency and openness sometimes demand a display, as the Constitutional Court asserted, of 'courage and resoluteness to boldly advance the best interests of those the members of the NA represent, no matter the consequences, including the risk of dismissal for non-compliance with the party's instructions'.

"The Speaker was also mindful that the current virtual or hybrid sessions of the National Assembly, which are part of the institutional measures to combat the spread of Covid-19, would, in any event, render the practicalities of a secret ballot very challenging."

On Tuesday, ATM spokesperson Sibusiso Mncwabe confirmed the party had received a letter from Modise to deny their request.

"We have instructed our lawyers to take the matter to court as a matter of urgency because we believe her rejections are not based on any valid legal arguments," he said.

"We will not accept what she is saying to us."


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