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The African Transformation Movement (ATM) and parliament’s speaker are at loggerheads on the way forward regarding the motion of no confidence against president Cyril Ramaphosa scheduled from 2pm on Wednesday.
Parliamentary speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula set a deadline for the ATM to withdraw its motion of no confidence in the president.
Mapisa-Nqakula wrote to ATM leader Vuyo Zungula on Tuesday in reply to a letter sent a day earlier asking for a postponement. She gave Zungula until 3pm on Tuesday to withdraw the ATM’s vote, which has been about two years in the making.
“In terms of the rules, it is the programme committee that may take decisions and issue directives and guidelines to prioritise or postpone any business of the assembly,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula told the ATM she fulfilled her obligations in terms of the rules to give the motion of no confidence “due priority” ensuring it would be scheduled, debated and voted on within a reasonable time frame. However, she said that she did not have the power to postpone the ATM’s motion.
Again referring to the rules, she told Zungula that as long as the motion remained on the order paper it blocked other similar motions from being tabled. “As speaker, I have a duty to protect the rights of the other parties to move motions of no confidence in the president,” read her reply.
She told Zungula “you have a right to withdraw your motion and resubmit it when your party is ready to do so” so as not to prejudice others who might want to raise one of their own. “I will therefore appreciate receiving an indication of your intention in this regard by 3pm today,” wrote Mapisa-Nqakula.
Soon after that deadline, the ATM sent a letter of rejection that asserted that if the motion were to proceed on Wednesday it would be unlawful. Zungula said “the matter is sub judice, and as such, the motion must be postponed until the courts have concluded all deliberations” in a reference to a review application.
The ATM’s urgent bid to argue for a closed ballot was struck from the urgent court roll on Monday, with a Western Cape High Court judge finding any urgency was “self-created” and since then the party has filed a review application.
In his letter of Tuesday mid-afternoon, Zungula told Mapisa-Nqakula the ATM “will not take part in this unlawful conduct” and for that reason would not participate were a vote to proceed on Wednesday.
“Should the speaker today or tomorrow insist the matter go, I will have to physically read the sub judice rule that states that you can’t proceed on a matter that is before the court. That will then be recorded in the Hansard and the public will know that is the position,” he said.
In a statement, parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said Mapisa-Nqakula had declined the ATM’s request for a postponement as she could not unilaterally grant it without the input of the programming committee, which held the power to do so.
Mapisa-Nqakula raised with the ATM a rule stopping MPs from anticipating discussion of a matter already on an order paper or agreed on by the programme committee or scheduling.
Zungula accused Mapisa-Nqakula of “playing politics” and insisting on the programme committee's involvement when previously, he claimed, she gave it the date for the motion vote.
He claimed she speaker was unfair in giving the ATM hours to respond to her Tuesday letter. “The method of voting is subject to disagreement. They want an open ballot. We want a secret ballot. It’s secret ballot or nothing,” he said.
The ATM first brought the motion in early 2020 but intervening events, including related court cases over an open versus closed ballot and national lockdown, caused delays. Ramaphosa was set to face the first motion of no confidence during his administration.
“Both the motions of no confidence in the president and in the cabinet, excluding the president, will be debated,” said Mothapo.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.