The Western Cape high court has ruled that the speaker of the Cape Town city council, Dirk Smit, should use his discretion to decide if a secret ballot should be used in tomorrow’s motion of no confidence against mayor Patricia de Lille.
But judge Robert Henney also ordered that Smit must ensure that DA councillors are able to vote with their conscience, and won’t be intimidated or face any repercussions if they violate the party’s wishes.
“I order that the members of DA caucus shall be free to vote for or against the motion in accordance with the dictates of their conscience without fear of intimidation,” Henney said in court.
De Lille approached the court after the DA Cape Town metro caucus tabled a motion of no confidence against her, and the party’s federal chairperson James Selfe said all councillors were expected to toe the party line.
This is despite the DA’s constitution stating that members of council would be free to vote according to their own conscience.
Selfe later retracted the statement after seeking legal advice. But on Wednesday Henney said the perception remained until February 2 when it was clarified, and De Lille’s decision to approach the courts was therefore justified.
De Lille’s advocate Dali Mpofu told the court that allowing the vote to happen by open ballot would be equivalent to expecting the councillors to speak out against the DA in public.
The DA’s advocate Ismael Jamie argued that the DA had given adequate assurance to its members that they would be protected, and accused De Lille of approaching the court to win a political battle.