Opposition parties have celebrated the Constitutional Court ruling that National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has the constitutional power to prescribe a secret ballot in a motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said that his party has been vindicated and is pleased that members of parliament will now be “constitutionally free” to vote with their conscience.
“The UDM is vindicated because we asked the Speaker to use her prerogative‚ but she put the interests of her political party ahead of parliament. This judgment also means that the threats which have been issued by Zuma and others … fall flat now.
“Those MPs are free to vote and follow their conscience. The UDM as well as other political parties are going to continue to seize the initiative up until 2019. You cannot vote for a questionable character and vote that questionable character into high office‚” said Holomisa.
He called on the ANC to read what he referred to as a watershed judgment and put the people first.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Leigh-Ann Mathys said: “You can be sure that in unity we will shut it [the country] down. This is your opportunity to shut down the country‚” she said.
COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota said the judgment marked a moment of “a triumph” of democracy.
“The constitutional clauses that the court dealt with today have not been interpreted before.
“In interpreting them‚ the court has made it clear that those of us who are elected‚ once elected and having taken an oath of office‚ owe it to the people of South Africa as a whole that no political party can compel a member of parliament to vote against their conscience and against their judgment‚” Lekota said.
DA Gauteng caucus leader Jack Bloom said about the judgment: “We will write to the Speaker and have the motion actioned as soon as possible. The decision is both rational and constitutional.”
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said in a statement: “The Motion of No Confidence in President Zuma is a pivotal moment for our country and its future. Jacob Zuma has abandoned the interests of the people‚ the economy‚ and South Africa‚ in favour of a kleptocratic Guptamocracy. We cannot allow this to continue any longer.”
In a unanimous judgment‚ the court on Thursday ruled that the Speaker of the National Assembly has the power to prescribe a secret ballot.
Mbete had said that neither the constitution or the rules of the National Assembly allow her to do so.
The court’s decision follows an application by the UDM‚ asking the court to order that the vote be conducted by secret ballot.
The application by the UDM came after Zuma reshuffled his cabinet in March‚ which resulted in him firing former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.
The actual debate on the motion of no confidence was postponed by Mbete to allow for the court application to be finalised.
Opposition parties have been calling for a secret ballot as they believe there are members of the ANC who are tired of Zuma’s troubles with the Guptas and the manner that his administration is handling state-owned entities.
By Nomahlubi Jordaan and Kgaugelo Masweneng