De Lille pleased with court ruling on motion of no confidence

Cape Town - Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille was pleased with the Western Cape High Court's ruling that DA councillors could vote with their consciences during a motion of no confidence in her.

The motion is to be held on Thursday - at the same time a similar motion of no confidence, in President Jacob Zuma at Parliament, is expected to take place.

De Lille wanted the court to rule that the motion could take place by secret ballot.

READ: De Lille's bid to have secret ballot at the discretion of City Speaker, court rules

Judge Robert Henney ruled on Wednesday that it was up to Speaker of the City of Cape Town council Dirk Smit to decide and that the DA could not force its members to vote for or against her.

"There is no reason why the court should not allow such interim relief," said Henney, handing down judgment in favour of De Lille's urgent application.

Commenting after the ruling, De Lille said: "I've created the space where they don't have to fear that there will be reprisals against them."

She said she was never against the motion itself, but just wanted councillors to vote without worrying about whether they will get in trouble with the DA's leadership.

Henney stopped short of ordering that the speaker run the motion of no confidence by secret ballot, saying he was not convinced by De Lille's advocate Dali Mpofu SC that this would not be crossing the line regarding the separation of powers.

Henney's judgment almost mirrors that handed down by the Constitutional Court last year, when the Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete was told she had the discretion to hold a secret vote in the motion of no confidence against Zuma.

That application was brought by the United Democratic Movement in the absence of clarity in the National Assembly rules as to whether a motion of no confidence could be held by secret ballot.

The Cape Town council had the same dilemma and had sought legal opinion on whether it could allow a secret ballot for the De Lille motion of no confidence.

Henney drew heavily on the UDM judgment in entrenching the Speaker's discretion.

He said local councillors should have the same rights as National Assembly members in such matters.

Henney added that the DA only did an about-turn on allowing a "free vote" on Monday.

He said the DA's federal executive, chaired by James Selfe, should have known better, given its own position regarding the right to secrecy and free voting in the motion of no confidence against Zuma last year.

Henney said that, according to the DA's rules, the only time members are allowed to stray from the party line is on abortion and the death penalty.

In January, 84 councillors in a DA caucus meeting voted in favour of the motion of no confidence in De Lille, and 59 against. This proved the caucus was not unanimous on removing her, continued Henney.

The motion is expected to be heard at 14:00.

In the meantime, De Lille said she would wait for her lawyers who would contact the Speaker's office and hear what the Speaker decides, but De Lille appeared to believe that Smit would follow the precedent set by Mbete last year and allow a secret ballot.

She said that, during meetings on Wednesday morning, she felt that support for her was "solid".

"I must say the support on the ground is solid... Whether the councillors will take their cue from the ground to make a decision - that is entirely up to them."

Comment was not immediately available from the Speaker's office.