POLITICS

'MPs Should Follow Their Personal Conscience' -- 7 Things Baleka Mbete Said About A Secret Ballot

Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete announced on Monday the vote of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma would be determined by secret ballot.

07/08/2017 16:59 SAST | Updated 07/08/2017 17:13 SAST

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete announced on Monday the vote of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma would be determined by a secret ballot.

In explaining her decision, Mbete said she had taken into account the "due independent and impartial consideration of all the legal, constitutional and political factors, especially those articulated in the Constitutional Court".

She said she had taken this approach "in the interests of transparency and having taken into account the huge interest in this matter... expressed in various quarters of society".

These are some of the most impactful quotes from Mbete's address on Monday afternoon, during which she said she would not take any questions from media:

1. A motion of no confidence is an extreme step
"I understand and accept that a motion of no confidence in the president is a very important matter, a potent tool towards holding the president to account. One connected to the foundational values of accountability and responsiveness to the needs of the people. It constitutes one of the severest political consequences imaginable."

2. Loyalty to the Constitution trumps loyalty to a political party
"I understand and accept that central to the freedom of an MP to follow the dictates of personal conscience is the fact that the member takes an oath of office, of faithfulness, to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution and laws, and there is no constitutional obligation for a member to swear allegiance to his or her party."

3. If the prevailing atmosphere is toxic, a secret ballot becomes necessary
"The Constitutional Court has indicated that a secret ballot becomes necessary where the prevailing atmosphere is toxified or highly charged. It is my duty to act responsibly when I assess how my decision will impact all members. I have conducted a thorough assessment of the situation and how it will impact all members... The speaker must... uphold the dignity of the house."

4. Mbete rubbished claims she would act in a partisan manner
"At the outset, I wish to indicate it is always important for societal actors, in particular political parties, to have confidence in our courts and in our Parliament. I therefore find the public pronouncements and calls that the speaker will act in a partisan manner reprehensible and unpalatable for our democracy. I am elected by the [National] Assembly to perform the role of speaker, and as long as that has not changed, I will not recuse myself..."

5. The citizens of South Africa are looking to Parliament for hope
The people of South Africa look to Parliament to give direction during challenging times. We must dare not underestimate this privilege and responsibility. The people of SA also look to Parliament for signals of hope. I have considered the environment and heard voices expressing doubt in the integrity and values of our 20-year-old constitution. We therefore have to use this opportunity to show responsiveness to our people.

6. A secret ballot is in the best interests of South Africa
"This decision is therefore in the best interest of the country. The Speaker is required to guard the procedures of this house and to ensure the outcome of the vote is credible. The Speaker must do this without fear or favour. It is with that in mind that this decision is also about putting the resilience of our democratic institution to test."

7. MPs should not be in fear of voting with their conscience
"MPs are not supposed to always operate under cover of secrecy. Considerations of transparency and openness sometimes demand a display of courage and resoluteness to boldly advance the interests of those they represent no matter the consequences, including the risk of dismissal for noncompliance of party instructions. But this reality may not always be possible where there are instances of intimidation."