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Testing time for President as vote of no confidence looms

President Cyril Ramaphosa Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

Published Nov 27, 2020

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Durban - THE African Transformation Movement (ATM) said yesterday it would push for a secret ballot when Parliament votes on the motion of no confidence in President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday.

This comes after National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise yesterday acceded to the ATM’s request for a debate on a motion of no confidence in Ramaphosa.

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In a motion tabled in February, ATM leader Vuyo Zungula alleged that Ramaphosa had misled the country when he said there would be no load shedding between December 17 last year and January 13. Zungula had also listed the alleged failure by Ramaphosa to act against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and the Eskom board for assuring him that there would be no load shedding during the period, only for the dreaded power blackouts to return a few days into the new year.

Other grounds in Zungula’s motion included the R500 000 donation made by late Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson for his campaign to be ANC president.

Yesterday, National Assembly Secretary Masibulele Xaso informed the programme committee that Modise has approved the request to debate the motion.

“There has been a request from the ATM for a motion of no confidence in the president that came through several months ago.

“The Speaker has approved that request and our recommendation is that it be dealt with next Thursday, the 3rd of December,” Xaso said.

ATM spokesperson Sibusiso Mncwabe said they welcomed Modise’s decision to grant an opportunity for a debate.

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“We are of the view that they were trying to look at all possible ways to defeat the motion or strengthen their caucus. We are happy that finally it is there now,” he said.

Mncwabe also said Zungula was engaging with Modise’s office to check how voting on the motion would be conducted, but their position was that there should be a secret ballot.

He said in light of the hybrid-model sitting in the National Assembly where some MPs attended in person in the chambers and the rest were attending virtually, it was important to ascertain how the voting would happen.

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Mncwabe said they would not allow a situation where chief whips of parties voted on behalf of members who attended the sitting virtually.

“We want members to be on their seats and vote by secret ballot.”

Mncwabe said they would take “other routes” should provision not be made for a secret ballot.

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But, parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the motion would be debated and voted on in a hybrid sitting of the House through an open ballot.

“A request by the ATM to have the motion voted on by way of a secret ballot was declined by the speaker,” Mothapo said.

He said Section1(d) of the Constitution sets “openness” as a fundamental principle for our democracy and that it instructed the national legislature to conduct its business in an open manner.

“The Constitutional Court has indicated that a secret ballot becomes necessary where the prevailing atmosphere is toxified or highly charged. The speaker found that the ATM had not offered any evidence of a highly charged atmosphere of any members in the motivation for their request,” Mothapo added.

Mncwabe said the party has received correspondence from Modise declining their request for a secret ballot.

“The leaders are engaging in a meeting to decide on the way forward,” Mncwabe said, adding that a statement would be released today.

ANC caucus parliamentary spokesperson Nomfanelo Kota said the governing party believed in multiparty democracy and any party had a right to raise any motion in any debate as long as that was done within the rules.

“As the ANC we will participate in this debate without any fear and to enhance democracy,” Kota said.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the notion of a motion of confidence lost its sting when it was used almost every two months against former president Jacob Zuma.

Fikeni said the ANC knows even at the worst of times they would not vote their president out.

“They prefer to sort out their things among themselves internally,” he said.

However, Fikeni also said the prominent role of people who did not support Ramaphosa because of factional interests should not be underestimated.

“Even before he (Ramaphosa) made the first mistake, they were making statements that he is illegitimate. Their single fixation will come in all manifestations and it would be expected and I can bet that the ATM will try to equal the record of the DA on motions of no confidence,” he said.

Another political analyst, Protas Madlala said the motion was a non-issue. “We are faced with very difficult problems now and to come with this, this is a non-issue. It is doomed to fail. It won’t fly,” Madlala said.

He said the motion was fairly weak and it came from a non-entity party.

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