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Parliament, Tuesday, 01 December 2020 - The Speaker of the National Assembly Ms Thandi Modise, has declined a request by the African Transformation Movement (ATM) for the voting on the motion of no confidence in the President to be conducted by a way of a secret ballot. The ATM had written to the Speaker over the weekend further motivating for their request, which was initially made in March.
The Speaker has the powers in terms of the Constitution to prescribe how voting in a motion of no confidence in the President may be conducted, taking into consideration 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.
The Constitutional Court in 2017 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.
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.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
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