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Cape Town council Speaker seeks advice on De Lille's 'secret ballot' demand

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Cape Town council Speaker seeks advice on De Lille's 'secret ballot' demand

Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille

9th February 2018

By: News24Wire

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The speaker of Cape Town's council was seeking legal advice on Friday over Mayor Patricia De Lille's court application to have a motion of no confidence in her be held by secret ballot, while her own party has given her until 15:00 on Friday to withdraw the application.

"I will be seeking legal advice on the matter," speaker Dirk Smit said.

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He said notice of De Lille's application was received at his office at 8:00 on Friday.

The legal advice sought will include whether it is correct, as contended by De Lille, that the council's rules do not allow for a secret ballot if a motion of no confidence is brought.

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The motion is scheduled for February 15.

De Lille announced on Thursday that she was taking the matter to court.

The matter almost mirrors an application relating to a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma last year.

In that case, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) applied to the Constitutional Court for it to be held in secret, so that African National Congress (ANC) MPs in Parliament could vote without fear of reprisals.

Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance (DA), supported the UDM's view.

The court ruled unanimously that National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete had the power to decide on holding a secret ballot. It could not order the holding of a secret ballot, because that would be encroaching on Parliament's territory - known as violating the principle of "separation of powers".

Mbete agreed to hold a secret ballot.

However, in Mogale City, Gauteng, although the DA was in favour of a secret ballot, 27 DA councillors had to take a lie detector test last year, to determine who had voted with the ANC to depose DA Mayor Michael Holenstein.

Smit said he also wanted to determine whether it was possible to make an exception to the rule on secret ballots in the Cape Town council, and if that was the case, what the processes were to make the exception.

The legal advice given would then help decide whether the motion would have to be postponed.

De Lille 'invited' to withdraw application

In the meantime, the DA has written to De Lille to "invite" her to withdraw her application on the right to a secret ballot.

"The application insists that the members of the DA caucus be allowed to vote on the [motion of no confidence] in accordance with their conscience. The DA has already made it clear that this will be the case and that every councillor is free to vote with his or her own conscience," said DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe.

He said the decision to hold a secret ballot is up to the council, and the party would not take disciplinary action against caucus members over the way they vote.

He said the party would also seek punitive costs from De Lille for "abusing" the court's process over the litigation.

"It is in the best interest of the people of Cape Town that this matter is resolved in an open and democratic manner and for this reason, we hope that Mayor De Lille reconsiders her current course of action," said Selfe.

De Lille is currently embroiled in allegations of corruption, which she has denied.

She has also been taken off communication on the Day Zero campaign to reduce water use in Cape Town, with DA leader Mmusi Maimane holding a public meeting to set the record straight on what was really happening regarding the crisis.

The letter the DA sent to De Lille stated that she misunderstood the situation over the motion of no confidence, and that she has until 15:00 on Friday to withdraw her application.

It said that it had already told her it had decided that the DA caucus in council should table the motion, but had not told anyone how to vote.

It pointed out that, in the UDM application, the Constitutional Court refused to order a secret ballot, but just confirmed that Mbete was allowed to decide whether or not to hold one.

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