SA reaps whirl­wind of in­de­ci­sion

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­press.co.za

While the na­tion waits for Na­tional Assem­bly Speaker Baleka Mbete’s de­ci­sion on whether to give MPs a se­cret bal­lot on the mo­tion to re­move Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma next week, be­hind the scenes par­lia­men­tary staff are pre­par­ing for a show­down.

City Press has learnt that bal­lot boxes and booths that were last used in May 2014 to elect Mbete, who is also the na­tional chair­per­son of the ANC, as the assem­bly’s Speaker have been dusted off and in­ter­nal print­ers made ready to print vot­ing pa­pers should she ac­cede to the op­po­si­tion’s request for a se­cret bal­lot.

“We have the ma­te­rial [such as bal­lot boxes] bought ahead of the sit­ting to elect the Speaker and pres­i­dent in 2014 and we stored them. The only thing is the print­ing of the bal­lot pa­per,” said a source with in­ti­mate knowl­edge of the process. The vot­ing pa­per would be printed in the event Mbete ac­cedes to the op­po­si­tion’s request for a se­cret bal­lot.

On Thurs­day, Par­lia­ment hosted a spe­cial se­cu­rity meet­ing which was at­tended by the po­lice, Par­lia­ment’s pro­tec­tion ser­vices, the State Se­cu­rity Agency and the pres­i­den­tial pro­tec­tion unit to dis­cuss plans for Au­gust 8, the day of the mo­tion. Among the con­sid­er­a­tions dis­cussed was the clos­ing of cer­tain streets around Par­lia­ment and even keep­ing some par­lia­men­tary staff away from work on the day. No fi­nal agree­ment was reached on pro­pos­als, ac­cord­ing to two sources with knowl­edge of the meet­ing.

The City of Cape Town has ap­proved marches by both the ANC and the op­po­si­tion par­ties to Par­lia­ment ahead of the de­bate, which is sched­uled to start at 2pm. The ANC’s Dul­lah Omar re­gion ap­plied for a march of 15 000 par­tic­i­pants from Grand Pa­rade to Par­lia­ment in sup­port of Zuma. The op­po­si­tion coali­tion, con­sist­ing of the DA, EFF, IFP, ACDP and the #Zu­maMustFall move­ment, is also hoping to at­tract 15 000 sup­port­ers on that day to call for the re­moval of the pres­i­dent.

City spokesper­son Hay­ley van der Woude said a group called Unite Be­hind Coali­tion – which is made up of civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions and re­li­gious bod­ies – has also changed its plans to gather in the city cen­tre on Au­gust 8 to the day be­fore.

Par­lia­ment’s spokesper­son Moloto Mothapo de­nied that Thurs­day’s meet­ing was about Au­gust 8, sug­gest­ing that it was one of a se­ries of joint meet­ings be­tween Par­lia­ment and gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives in prepa­ra­tion for next Fe­bru­ary’s state of the na­tion ad­dress.

City Press spoke to four ex­perts who slated Mbete for de­lay­ing her de­ci­sion, say­ing this was cre­at­ing un­nec­es­sary un­cer­tainty.

For­mer Na­tional Party MP Piet Matthee pre­pared a doc­u­ment on the sce­nar­ios around the se­cret bal­lot for MPs to con­sider ahead of the Au­gust 8 de­bate. He also sug­gested that in the event the Speaker de­cided on an open vote, there should be an im­me­di­ate ap­pli­ca­tion to the court for an in­ter­dict to say that “no party is al­lowed to threaten or in­sti­tute dis­ci­plinary ac­tion or ter­mi­nate a mem­ber’s mem­ber­ship of the party and of Par­lia­ment be­cause of the way he or she ex­er­cised his or her con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tions of over­sight by vot­ing”.

Con­sti­tu­tional law ex­pert Pierre de Vos said if Mbete de­clined the request for a se­cret bal­lot, the op­tions were for the vot­ing to go ahead or some party to in­sti­tute a court chal­lenge stat­ing that the Speaker’s dis­cre­tion was ir­ra­tional and not in line with what the Con­sti­tu­tional Court had said. This would most likely end with another court case and another post­pone­ment of the vote.

“If you don’t want the pres­i­dent to be re­moved from of­fice, it would make sense to give the op­po­si­tion as lit­tle time as pos­si­ble to make the de­ci­sion; and to try to string this thing out for as long as pos­si­ble,” said De Vos.

Law­son Naidoo, of the Coun­cil for the Ad­vance­ment of the South African Con­sti­tu­tion, said: “The de­lay leads to sus­pi­cions and per­cep­tions that there may be an ex­ter­nal in­flu­ence.”

ANC stal­wart and for­mer MP Ben Turok was more scathing in his as­sess­ment of the sit­u­a­tion. He said Mbete was con­flicted as a Speaker be­cause of her other po­si­tion as ANC chair­per­son. “She ob­vi­ously puts that first and, there­fore, she thinks po­lit­i­cally and not con­sti­tu­tion­ally.”

Turok said Mbete was a “very in­de­ci­sive” per­son on mat­ters of prin­ci­ple.

Mothapo re­it­er­ated a par­lia­men­tary statement in which Mbete ap­pealed to all par­ties to af­ford her of­fice the nec­es­sary space to make an ap­pro­pri­ate de­ci­sion.

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BALEKA MBETE

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