The then newly-elected Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, in May 2019. Jairus Mmutle/GCIS
The then newly-elected Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, in May 2019. Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Modise turns down ATM’s second secret ballot bid for no-confidence vote on Ramaphosa

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Dec 1, 2020

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Cape Town - National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has declined for the second time a request by the African Transformation Movement (ATM) for the voting on the motion of no confidence in President Cyril Ramaphosa to be conducted by way of a secret ballot.

This was despite the ATM's lawyer, Andile Justice Magigaba, giving her an ultimatum of until the end of business on Monday to accede to the party's request after she ruled last Thursday that a secret ballot “becomes necessary where the prevailing atmosphere is toxified or highly charged”.

In his letter, Magigaba said the motion of no confidence scheduled for Thursday afternoon was in itself of serious nature.

Magigaba said voting needed individual consciousness other than the party mandate the voter may have.

“In order to achieve the individual consciousness, it is desirable and compellable that the vote be held by the secret ballot.

“In the secret ballot voting, freeness and fairness in respect of individual voting will be achieved.”

He charged that the political atmosphere was as it was at the time of vote of no confidence in former president Jacob Zuma by the UDM in 2017 that resulted in the Constitutional Court judgment.

"We have been informed that the voting procedure in Parliament’s house session is by the chief whip of the individual party to stand by and vote on behalf of all individual MPs in his party.

“This mechanism, if used, will not achieve the desire of voting by individual consciousness,” Magigaba wrote.

But parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said Modise has the constitutional powers to prescribe how voting in a motion of no confidence in the president may be conducted taking into consideration prevailing pertinent factors.

"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,“ Mothapo said.

He also said the Constitutional Court indicated in 2017 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.”

Mothapo also said MPs were 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 (National Assembly) represent, no matter the consequences, including the risk of dismissal for non-compliance with the party’s instructions’.”

He added that Modise was also mindful that the current virtual or hybrid sessions of the National Assembly rendered the practicalities of a secret ballot very challenging.

Political Bureau

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