South African opposition wants secret ballot on Zuma vote

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A vote of no confidence for President Zuma's resignation is now on the table at Parliament but has been postponed while opposition MPs try their best to ensure that the voting method for the motion happens via secret ballots.

"We are pleading that she has such an obligation to arrange it and she has failed to do it", Dali Mpofu, a lawyer representing the United Democratic Movement party, told the Constitutional Court in televised proceedings.

After Zuma's March 30 Cabinet reshuffle, the opposition asked National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to schedule a vote of no confidence in Zuma.

"The opposition believe, as do many of us, that some of the backbench men of the ANC would not be able to exercise a free will when voting on this matter because they all fear for their jobs, fear for their future", he said.

The judges asked Mpofu about the rationale of the parties approaching the court and not dealing with the matter in the National Assembly.

Mpofu argued that the Constitutional Court should look at countries like Ghana, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Korea, among others, whose courts have ruled for a secret ballot.

At issue here is whether or not a secret ballot should be allowed during a motion of no confidence debate in President Jacob Zuma. "What concerns me is the decision by the National Assembly that motions of no confidence can't be decided by secret ballot".

Dali Mpofu, for the UDM, implored the court to look at the section in the Constitution which explains the objective of the protection of a secret ballot.

Mbete who in her court papers said the application had no merit also said she had no authority or discretion to agree to the applicant's request. This was not the case with section 102‚ they said.

"Could it be that the drafters of the constitution, mindful of the principle of separation of powers, wanted this arm of the state (the legislature) to decide on how they would decide on the motion to be conducted?"

The Economic Freedom Fighters leader, Julius Malema, who addressed the large crowd, said the judges must not be intimidated by criminals.

"There's a subliminal assumption that voting with a whip is not in line with voting with one's conscience".

Mpofu said the UDM relied on Section 102 (2) of the constitution.

In an open ballot, votes by individual members of parliament (MPs) are cast electronically and you can see how each member voted. "In those circumstances‚ there is a comparable scenario".

"Why is it that the constitution prescribes a secret ballot? In the case of Korea, the rules do not even deal with a secret ballot".

The speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, a member of Zuma's ANC, previously had maintained that she did not possess the power needed to order a secret ballot in a parliament.

In his heads of argument‚ counsel for President Zuma, Ishmael Semenya SC said a vote by secret ballot was not required by section 102 of the constitution.

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