No democratic process will be infringed and South Africans stand to gain nothing from the insistence on the secret ballot vote by parliamentarians in the removal of the public protector Busisiwe Mkhebane. Law expert says

By Lezeth Khoza

Nothing is likely to come out of a secret vote by members of parliament to remove Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane as the Public Protector on Monday.

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) and the African Transformation Movement(ATM) have written to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula asking her to allow MPs to vote in a secret ballot or meet them in court.

Bantu Holomisa  of UDM and ATM’s Vuyo Zungula, in a letter to speaker, argue that she must consider a secret ballot because the African National Congress (ANC) will again coerce its members on how to vote.

Zungula asked the speaker to make a decision soon failing which they will take her to court.

“December’s open vote on whether President Cyril Ramaphosa should face impeachment proceedings proved that ANC members who voted with their conscience faced consequences for not toeing the party line,” Zungula says in a letter.

This is all frivolous and aimless, says Lawson Naidoo, the executive director of the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac).

“No fundamental rights will be infringed by an open public vote on both the processes of removal of the current Public Protector and the appointment of the new one. The processes where held in a transparent manner and should be concluded openly,” Naidoo told The Telegram.

He  also said  threats of legal action by the two were baseless.

“UDM leader Bantu Holomisa should know better than insisting on taking the secret ballot matter to court. In December last year, he did the same thing and lost because the courts did not find any compelling reasons for the secret ballot, as is the case in this matter,” Naidoo said.

Independent political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe said it would have been ideal to have the vote in secret but thought it  was unlikely.

“A secret ballot would protect those members that fear having to face reprisals should they ignore the party’s directive on the matter. Should the speaker agree to a secret, the ANC will fail to get the required numbers to remove the Public Protector. But this is improbable,” he said.

ANC MP who spoke to The Telegram on conditions of anonymity agrees. The MP said the ultimate decision about what method is to be used rests solely with the speaker of parliament.

“The matter depends entirely on Maphisa-Ngcakula’s discretion as a speaker. Only she can determine how voting will be done and I can tell you now,  she will not accede to the UDM and ATM demands,” the politician said.

Last week, parliaments programme committee took a decision to  have the two votes of the removal and  the appointment of the public protector on Monday 12 September.

This after the ad hoc committee investigating Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office adopted its final report, which recommended her permanent removal. It also adopted its own report recommending Kholeka Gcaleka as the next Public Protector.

The candidates included acting Public Protector Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka who had the South African nation side-eyeing her answers to basic law question during an intense grilling. Gcaleka has been nominated by the Parliament Committee as the next Public Protector, the nomination has been supported by the ANC and IFP, and however the EFF and DA strongly oppose the nomination.

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