ATM's Mzwanele Manyi.

THE African Transformation Movement (ATM) vowed on Tuesday to approach the court over the refusal by National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise to allow MPs to vote for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s removal by way of a secret ballot.

Members of Parliament will debate and vote on a motion of confidence against Ramaphosa on Thursday.

ATM spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi said Modise’s refusal to allow MPS to vote by way of a secret ballot has left them with no choice but to head to court.

Manyi quoted a statement on his Twitter account on Tuesday: “As is the case with general elections where a secret ballot is deemed necessary to enhance the freeness and fairness of the elections, so it with the election of the President by the National Assembly.”

“This allows members to exercise their vote freely and effectively, in accordance with the conscience of each, without undue influence, intimidation or fear of disapproval by others.”

The ATM brought the motion of no confidence against Ramaphosa in February but was delayed due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The opposition party says Ramaphosa failed to disclose to Parliament that he benefitted financially from his ANC presidential campaign in 2017. 

The motion, which is expected to be debated on Thursday, is the first one against President Ramaphosa.

On Tuesday, the Speaker of the National Assembly Ms Thandi Modise, declined a request by the 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.

Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said 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,” said Mothapo.

“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.”
Mothapo added that as public representatives of the electorate, MPs 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”,” said Mothapo.

“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.”

Ramaphosa has been head of state since February 2018 and has been trying to revive investor confidence in Africa’s most industrialised economy, Reuters reports.

He has found it hard-going given infighting in the ANC and the weak state of public finances.

His predecessor, Jacob Zuma, survived many no-confidence votes before being ousted by Ramaphosa’s allies in the ANC executive, who believed scandals during Zuma’s nine-year tenure were damaging the reputation of the liberation movement of Nelson Mandela.

According to the constitution, a motion of no confidence in the president needs to be supported by a simple majority in the National Assembly to pass.

The largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said it did not support the ATM motion.



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