National Assembly Speaker breezes through no-confidence motion as EFF stands alone
The EFF failed to get broad opposition backing for its no-confidence motion against Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula — not because of support for her, but because the constitutional motion was deficient and failed to show a pattern of matters such as bias and misapplication.
With the ANC numbers in the House, the EFF’s no-confidence motion against Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was defeated, with 234 votes against, 42 for, and 73 abstentions from the DA and the United Democratic Movement (UDM), leaving Mapisa-Nqakula the second incumbent to survive such a motion since 2014.
“Our abstinence… should never be construed as a vote of confidence in you, Madam Speaker. Our abstinence is motivated by the fact that the motion before us today does not even scratch the surface of why you are ill-suited for this role,” said DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube.
“Yours will be a legacy of the last Speaker of the National Assembly where the ANC held a majority. You will be remembered as the Speaker who hastened the decline of this institution. The constitutional giants that came before you, like Dr [Frene] Ginwala and Mr Max Sisulu, built a foundation that is being deliberately obliterated by the ANC.”
In a hard-hitting debate contribution, Gwarube pointed out that Mapisa-Nqakula “routinely forgets the separation of powers”, and that Parliament had yet to qualitatively deal with the State Capture commission recommendations.
“We all knew that a former minister of 19 years, who had always treated Parliament with disdain, would not miraculously transform into a defender of legislative oversight.”
The EFF’s no-confidence motion in the Speaker was leveraged off its MPs’ eviction by armed and camouflaged tactical response members during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) in February.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Normalising armed security forces in the House, and the Speaker faces no-confidence motion
Mapisa-Nqakula had “conducted herself in an irresponsible, unconstitutional and unacceptable manner when she called members of the security services to come inside the Parliament chamber”, according to the EFF motion on Wednesday’s Order Paper. The motion also said the Speaker “relied on her emotions and her biases, which resulted in shameful violence against Members of Parliament”.
Like the DA, other opposition parties disagreed, albeit with more delicate phrasing.
IFP Chief Whip Narend Singh said while no-confidence motions were entrenched in the Constitution and parliamentary rules, political parties had to desist from political point-scoring.
“We do not believe the issues are substantive enough to support this motion of no confidence,” said Singh.
The UDM’s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said because the motion was premature in the light of parliamentary processes still under way, the party could not support it.
African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP Steve Swart said the no-confidence motion was brought on very limited grounds. Had it been framed differently, it would have enjoyed more support.
Ditto, responses from the Freedom Front Plus, National Freedom Party (NFP), African Independent Congress (AIC) and Al Jama-ah.
The EFF, however, received support from African Transformation Movement (ATM) leader, Vuyolwethu Zungula, who outlined how Mapisa-Nqakula had dismissed his party’s various efforts to hold the executive to account, including secret ballots. Parliament needed a Speaker for all, not just one political party.
‘Enemies of the Constitution’
Meanwhile, the three ANC speakers described the EFF as “anarchists” and “enemies of the Constitution” without mentioning the party by name, talking about how the decorum in the House was undermined by “acts of sabotage” and “brazen acts of intimidation”.
As ANC Deputy Chief Whip Doris Dlakude put it, “Parliamentary democracy is now under attack because of this small group of anarchists.”
Mapisa-Nqakula sat next to Deputy President Paul Mashatile in the front row of the sitting at the Cape Town City Hall. Just over her right shoulder was her predecessor as Speaker, Defence Minister Thandi Modise.
As the bells were rung ahead of the vote, several ANC MPs came to chat with the Speaker, who returned for this debate and vote from international parliamentary engagements — the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly’s conference “Russia-Africa in a Multipolar World”.
It was a high-volume no-confidence motion debate with intense heckling.
In this, Wednesday’s no-confidence motion debate was no different from the one in mid-September 2014 against her predecessor, Baleka Mbete, also ANC national chairperson.
The key difference, however, was the then united opposition front for the no-confidence motion against Mbete over bias and persistent rulings protecting the then president. The opposition walked out when the ANC tried to turn the motion into one of confidence in Mbete. Although this was ultimately dropped, the opposition walkout meant the no-confidence motion was defeated.
Security forces in the House
With the no-confidence motion in the Speaker defeated, questions remain over the security forces in the House during the Sona. That camouflaged, armed members of what seemed to be the presidential counter-assault unit, and others, were on the stage in no time, indicated close proximity of this unit and significant security force planning.
Concern has been raised among opposition parties, civil society and others over the presence of the police, a tool of the executive, at the heart of Parliament, a separate independent sphere of the state. The national legislature has the constitutional responsibility of overseeing and holding to account the executive, or ministers, their deputies and a range of state-owned entities.
No specific oversight committee exists for the Presidency — significant powers are centralised there from intelligence, infrastructure, investment, red-tape cutting and structural reform breaking units alongside employment stimulus and more — although it is recommended by the State Capture commission. DM