19 April 2017

South Africa: The Quest for a Secret Ballot Is a Zero Sum Game

Photo: Stefan Schäfer/Wikipedia
Constitutional Court of South Africa (file photo).

Leaving aside such political advantages and disadvantages as there may be for delaying the vote in the no-confidence debate on the future of the President and his Cabinet, the notion that some handy guidance from the Constitutional Court may be forthcoming through the impending litigation is without foundation.

The UDM may or may not persuade the Constitutional Court that it is within the power of the Speaker, or failing her, of the National Assembly itself, to direct that the vote on the motion of no-confidence be held in secret. The Speaker contends that she has no such power, but she is not averse to finding out from the court whether it does exist in some or other form. It probably does; this will probably emerge from the crucible of argument presented in the urgent application brought by the UDM, which the court has agreed to hear, but only after the scheduled date of the no-confidence debate.

Whether the UDM wins, loses or draws in its quest to better define the powers of the Speaker or National Assembly, one thing is as close to a racing certainty as one can get in litigation: the court is not going to order directly...

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