National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has declined a request submitted by the African Transformation Movement’s (ATM) to have the voting procedure on the Section 89 independent panel report into the Phala Phala farm scandal held via a secret ballot.
This comes after ATM president Vuyo Zungula wrote to Mapisa-Nqukula on December 1, asking MPs be allowed to vote through a secret ballot following the debate on the Section 89 panel report.
“The Speaker is empowered to exercise her discretion in determining the voting method to be employed to decide questions before the House where no voting method is prescribed in the Rules of the National Assembly,” Parliament said in a statement released on Monday morning.
In her letter to Zungula, Mapisa-Nqakula says she believes a closed voting procedure will deprive citizens of identifying the positions of their representatives across party lines and that this may facilitate the possibility of corruption aimed at influencing members to vote in a manner where they will be shielded from accountability to the people they represent for the exercise of their constitutional duty.
She also said she had to balance Zungula’s reasons for a secret ballot procedure against other imperatives, including the foundational constitutional principle of “openness”, as set out in Section 1(d) of the Constitution which guides SA democratic order. Furthermore, the Speaker said the constitutional requirement, as set out in Section 59(1)(b), that the National Assembly must conduct its proceedings in an open manner was also an important consideration in this case.
She also said she believed that the constitutional imperatives set out were equally compelling for the (House of) Assembly to uphold, when considered against her assessment of the prevailing political atmosphere in the country.
“An open and transparent procedure followed by the Assembly to exercise this important decision on the Section 89 Independent Panel Report, can only bring about public trust and confidence in the Assembly and our democratic dispensation.”