‘It’s up to the governing party’
United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa says the decision to remove President Jacob Zuma, and how to do so, is now out of the opposition’s hands and up to the ANC.
The UDM took the landmark case regarding Parliament being allowed to use a secret ballot in a motion of no confidence against the president to the Constitutional Court, and won.
Holomisa had said the secret vote would protect ANC MPs who wanted to see Zuma removed but were wary of the repercussions. Opposition parties and some civil society organisations lobbied ANC MPs to vote with the opposition when the no confidence vote was held in the National Assembly.
“The question of lobbying ANC MPs is no longer in our hands,” said Holomisa this week.
“They are being told even by their former leaders, such as [Thabo] Mbeki and [Kgalema] Motlanthe, to put the interests of the people first. It is no longer with us, it is within the ANC itself to caucus those issues.
“At the time we went to court, there were no Gupta emails,” he added.
“The situation has now become worse. What does the ANC do about this bribery and corruption? What action are they going to take?”
Holomisa said it was no longer about the opposition calling for Zuma’s removal but a national crisis, in which the ANC would have to side with Zuma or the people of South Africa.
Holomisa said he had “rolled out the red carpet; now they must walk it”.
“They should give me a medal. I have facilitated the route for them,” he added.
In April, the UDM requested the Constitutional Court to rule on whether the Speaker of the National Assembly had the discretion to decide on a secret ballot for a vote of no confidence against the president.
On Thursday, the court ruled that the Speaker had the constitutional powers to prescribe the vote by secret ballot.
Parliament welcomed the direction provided by the court and said it was committed to giving effect to the decision.
On Friday, Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete was yet to take a decision. He said she was still applying her mind and would respond accordingly to the DA’s request for the motion of no confidence against Zuma to be scheduled at the earliest available opportunity. The UDM also wrote to the Speaker, requesting that the debate be held urgently. While the Constitutional Court has said it was up to the Speaker to decide on the secret ballot, parliamentary rules indicate that the Speaker is expected to consult the National Assembly’s rules committee as part of her decision-making process. A senior ANC MP, who is involved in the rules processes, said the Speaker did not have the authority to decide on her own as she was accountable to the rules committee. “The court said she must make a decision. She knows that she consults with the rules committee – that is where the power of Parliament lies,” said the MP. “When the Speaker has to make a big decision, she has to consult the rules committee,” added the MP. This echoes what the ANC parliamentary caucus said in a statement shortly after the Constitutional Court made its ruling. “Notwithstanding these matters and the effects of the engagements that will ensue in the rules committee, we are still steadfast that whether such engagement will result in a vote by secret ballot or not, and we have unqualified and unequivocal confidence in the ANC caucus not to vote in support of a motion to remove the president of the ANC, who is also the president of the Republic of South Africa and our government, from office,” the party said. This means that, should Mbete consult the rules committee, she cannot be held individually accountable for whatever decision she takes. The committee, as with every other parliamentary committee, is dominated by ANC members and it is expected that the party’s numbers would carry the day in the committee’s consultations with the Speaker. Zuma raised eyebrows on Thursday just hours after the Constitutional Court ruling when he told Parliament that a secret ballot was “unfair”. In some quarters, this was interpreted as his publicly giving Mbete her marching orders. “He should not have said that,” said Holomisa. “That was in contempt of the court, and he continues to undermine our institutions of democracy – in this case, Parliament and the Constitutional Court.”
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