The United Democratic Movement (UDM) has filed an urgent application in the Constitutional Court asking that motions of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma next week be decided by secret ballot.
Parliament said it will oppose the application.
UDM leader Bantubonke Holomisa said the application arose from the fact that the Speaker of the National Assembly‚ Baleka Mbete‚ has refused the party’s request to have the voting on these motions conducted by way of a secret ballot.
The motion of no confidence is scheduled to be determined by the National Assembly next Tuesday.
“The UDM’s case is that on a proper construction of the relevant constitutional provisions and the Rules of the National Assembly‚ a secret ballot is required in respect of the motions of no confidence concerned‚” Holomisa said in his founding affidavit.
Holomisa said whenever the members of the National Assembly were called upon to elect the president‚ this must take place via secret ballot.
“It follows by implication that when those members are to express a lack of confidence in the President and remove him from that position‚ a secret ballot must similarly be used.”
He said the rules of the National Assembly did not preclude a secret ballot used for a motion of no confidence‚ or in the alternative‚ that the rules were constitutionally invalid to the extent that they purported to preclude this.
“This application does not seek to prescribe to the National Assembly how to run its affairs.
“It merely seeks to establish that the decision of the Speaker that the Constitution and the Rules prohibit a motion of no confidence being determined by secret ballot is not sustainable or consistent with our Constitution.”
Holomisa said three opposition political parties indicated their desire to table motions of no confidence in the president following Zuma’s reshuffling of his Cabinet two weeks ago.
The reshuffle resulted in the removal of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy‚ Mcebisi Jonas.
Holomisa said the urgency of the motions of no confidence were critical in the view of the economic and political crisis facing South Africa.
Holomisa said following the Cabinet reshuffle‚ two of the three ratings agencies downgraded South Africa’s long-term foreign currency sovereign rating from investment grade to “junk” status.
He said the downgrade by the ratings agencies did not have implications only for those who participated in the heights of the financial economy.
“Its effects will be felt‚ arguably worse than by anyone else‚ by ordinary people.”
He said the court should deal with this application before the motions of no confidence were decided.
Holomisa said if this did not occur‚ African National Congress MPs who supported the motion would be placed in an intolerable position.
“If they follow their conscience and vote for the motion of no confidence‚ they will almost certainly be disciplined and likely expelled from the ANC and lose their seats in Parliament.”