President Jacob Zuma and Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete have filed answering papers at the Constitutional Court to an application for a secret ballot to be held in the motion of no confidence in Zuma.
Eric Mabuza, the lawyer acting for the United Democratic Movement (UDM) which has brought the action, confirmed to Eyewitness News that the papers had been received.
The UDM asked the ConCourt to hear its case that the ballot, which will probably now be held in May for the court to hear submissions, should be held in secret as ANC MPs were being intimidated over voting with their conscience.
Times Live reported that Zuma's affidavit, opposing the UDM's application, stated that voting in an open ballot was not unconstitutional as it claimed. The president said in his affidavit:
"The applicant appears to concede that the Constitution is silent on whether such a vote should be open or secret. This concession already admits that a secret vote is not inconsistent with the relevant provision of the Constitution. For that reason alone‚ the relief sought by the applicant is not competent."
Claims that ANC MPs could see their political careers finished if they voted with their conscience were "spurious", the president further said in his affidavit.
Speaker Baleka Mbete also filed an affidavit at the ConCourt which said she was "personally not averse to having a motion of no confidence in the President being decided by secret ballot.
"I am however‚ bound by the Constitution of the Rules that the [National Assembly] has adopted. Accordingly‚ I have no authority or discretion to accede to the applicant's request," Mbete continued.
Mbete says the UDM should have approached Parliament's rules committee.
"I respectfully submit that this application has no merit; it does not fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of this Court; it does not meet the requirements for direct access‚ it is calculated to embroil this Court in political controversy in a matter that involved a violation of the principle of separation of powers and it is grounded on the assumption that the members of the NA‚ particularly the African National Congress‚ are weak-kneed‚ timid‚ cowardly‚ unprincipled and spineless persons‚ which assumption I am not prepared to make‚" Mbete said.