Deputy Speaker, the motion printed in my name on the Order Paper is as follows:
That the House -
(1) notes that during the tenure of President Jacob Zuma as President of the Republic of South Africa-
(a) economic growth has fallen to around 1,4%;
(b) more and more South Africans are constantly and increasingly falling victim to violent crimes;
(c) corruption has been established in South Africa as a constant;
(d) the promotion of the unity of the nation has been seriously compromised; and
(2) in terms of section 102(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and Rule 102A of the Rules of the National Assembly, passes a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma. The Deputy Chief Justice has said that in the first instance the Assembly is elected to represent the people and to ensure government by the people under the Constitution. [Interjections.]
A motion of no confidence in the President is a vital tool to advance our democratic hygiene. It affords the Assembly a vital duty and power to scrutinise and oversee executive action. This shows that the Constitutional Court recognises the supreme importance of motions of no confidence in the executive as the most powerful tools of parliamentary oversight.
Since this is so, it is very important that, when voting on a motion of no confidence in the President, members of the National Assembly, including members who represent the majority party, should vote according to the dictates of their conscience. [Interjections.] That is why a motion of no confidence must be voted upon by way of a secret ballot. [Interjections.]
The ruling party has betrayed its liberation movement traditions and now rules more by fear and patronage than by consent, but I am convinced that there are enough hon members who represent the governing party who share our distress at how the President has shamed the liberation movement, shamed the country and shamed all of its people. [Interjections.] I believe that they would vote with the minority parties to adopt a motion of no confidence in the President if voting took place by secret ballot. It is a pity, therefore, that the Speaker has turned down Agang's request for such a vote to be taken by way of a secret ballot.
The Supreme Court of Appeal has heard that the Speaker is required by the duties of her office to exercise and display the impartiality of a judge. Of course, the President will not enjoy the confidence of opposition parties, but the Speaker must enjoy the confidence of every member in this House, for the Speaker is not the Speaker of the ANC; she's the speaker of Parliament. She is, or should be, the Speaker of us all.
We have all been witnessing the unthinkable over the last few months. This Chamber should be a bastion of decorum, where the people's chosen representatives gather to debate the affairs of the nation and to make its laws. There should be, on the one hand, the utmost respect for the authority of the presiding officers and, on the other, unwavering impartiality on their part. But this House has descended into chaos.
Our new democracy was a light to the world. We had overcome centuries of colonialism and apartheid. This institution was, until 1994, the stifled, oppressive seat of domination of a single, racist party. It hosted the barest pretext of democracy - a cynical mockery of popular representation.
Then, overnight, this was transformed into a Chamber that drew the admiration of the world. People came from every corner of the globe to witness the workings of a nonracial, nonsexist republic of freedom.
It is an unspeakable tragedy that we seem to be reverting to what this House was in the grim years of apartheid - a hollow sham of democratic gestures, form without substance, words without meaning, ritual without integrity.
We must lead by example, but we have taught the worst possible lesson to an audience on live television. Our people, day after day, witness their elected leaders abandoning all decency, mutual respect, and honour.
It is the Speaker's sacred responsibility to hold this House to the highest standards of democracy. Instead of doing so, she has descended into muddy trenches. What will happen if this paralysis, caused in no small measure by the President, endures for too long? What will happen? What will happen if the National Assembly is frustrated and cut off from fulfilling its constitutional role for too long?
Democracy is a fragile thing. I fear that the habits and practices of lively debate - challenging, but respecting differences - that characterised our postliberation rainbow Parliament, may whither and die on the vine, never to stir again.
If that happens, history may record that the Speaker presided over the funeral.
The danger is that Parliament will have become twisted and torn too far, wounded and damaged too badly, and gone down the road of chaos so far that it will be unable to turn back. Also, a legislature that has torn itself apart and, in the process, rendered itself incapable of fulfilling its oversight role, particularly in respect of the executive, invites executive intervention and takeover.
So this debate is set against the backdrop of no fewer than three High Court applications arising out of the disgraceful scrambling of cellphone signals and the invasion of these hallowed halls by armed plainclothes police.
And now Agang, the UDM and Cope are jointly seeking an order against the Speaker to have her declared unfit to hold the position of Speaker. At the very least, she should not preside over debates on motions of no confidence. [Interjections.]
In the same court case an order will also be sought that a vote on a motion of no confidence should take place by secret ballot, in order to allow members to vote according to their conscience and not according to the dictates of Luthuli House.
This court application was necessitated, firstly, by the Speaker's refusal to recuse herself from presiding over this debate and, secondly, by the fact that she indicated in advance, without hearing the arguments, that she would not allow voting to take place by way of secret ballot.
In our court case we maintain that the Speaker has strayed from the rule of law and the time-honoured conventions which apply to her position - those of impartiality, even-handedness, fairness and discernment. She is like a judge who has become a prosecutor. Agang, the UDM and Cope are asking the court to take the first step along the road to the restoration and recovery of Parliament's dignity and the nation's respect for it.
We are respectfully asking the court to remind the Speaker that she is not above the law and that she should abide by the rules of law which govern ...