15 May 2017

South Africa: Concourt to Hear Arguments for Secret Ballot in Zuma Vote of No Confidence

South Africa's attention will be focused on the Constitutional Court on Monday as some of the best legal minds in the country once again argue on a matter involving President Jacob Zuma.

United Democratic Movement Leader Bantu Holomisa's application before the highest court in the land is to have the voting in a motion of no confidence against the president be done under secret ballot.

He made the application following the tabling of the debate after it was requested by the Democratic Alliance in the National Assembly. It's the fifth one the main opposition party has brought against Zuma.

The DA was prompted by a late night Cabinet reshuffle in March, which saw the axing of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.

The no-confidence debate was postponed by Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete pending the application before the ConCourt.

Senior counsels for the different respondents including the UDM, Speaker of parliament, the president, several political parties and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution will be arguing over the implications and constitutionality of a secret ballot.

Mbete who in her court papers said the application had no merit also said she had no authority or discretion to agree to the applicant's request.

She is also using different counsel from the last time she had to make representations before the highest court in the land.

Representatives in High Court

In 2016, for the Nkandla case around the recommendations of the public protector on the non-security upgrades at the president's home, Mbete was represented by Lindi Nkosi-Thomas who left many in stitches over some of her antics which included raising her voice, dramatic hand gestures and silent pauses during proceedings.

Nkosi-Thomas has been replaced by Advocate Marumo Moerane who has in the past represented several ministers and notably former president Thabo Mbeki during the Seriti commission into the Arms deal.

One advocate many will have their eyes on following his performance in the State of Capture matter in the High Court in Pretoria is Tembeka Ngcukaitobi.

His grasp of the law and arguments against an application brought by the president to block the release of a report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela into the undue influence the Gupta family had over some of the decisions the president made and operations at some state owned enterprises, had social media users using phrases such U' babe wemthetho [lawyer baby] and Black Excellence to describe his skills.

While the EFF's own national chairperson Dali Mpofu will be leading the main applicant's arguments during proceedings. Holomisa's political party had argued that since the president was elected by secret ballot in the National Assembly that same method could be used to remove him.

Zuma's team

Zuma, who often along with his executive get slammed for using white counsel, now has an all-black team representing him. It will be led by Advocate Ismael Semenya.

The president's team also includes Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane who was appointed by the South African Revenue of Service in 2014 compiled a report that looked into claims of the so-called SARS "rogue unit".

The president also took issue with the court being asked to preside over the matter.

"Under normal circumstances, a court would not normally intervene in the internal domestic affairs of a voluntary organisation," Zuma said in his affidavit.

The DA's lawyers are expected to be in court, however its federal chairperson James Selfe told News24 that they would not be arguing but instead would abide by whatever outcomes emerge from the sitting.

Selfe said the party had close to 15 matters before the courts.

Another familiar name in the court on Monday would be that of Advocate Geoff Budlender, a Cape Town based lawyer who was recently tasked with investigating claims of links between the Gupta family and Trillian Capital by its non-executive chairperson Tokyo Sexwale.


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