n Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg - Motions of no confidence : parliament's executive check checkmate
2013 6 SA 249 (CC) : regspraak

Volume 2014, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0257-7747
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2207



In the chess game that is multi-party politics a motion of no confidence is an important manoeuvre up the sleeve of any member of the legislature in most parliamentary systems. Not only the motion as such, but also the timing of the motion, may be used to the fullest advantage by opposition parties (and, of course, to the disadvantage of the government in power at the time). Recently there has been renewed interest in the mechanism of motions of no confidence following the constitutional court decision in . A motion of no confidence is an important feature of the parliamentary procedures of the British Westminster system and it is therefore also an important mechanism in many other parliamentary systems which have been modelled on the Westminster system, including South Africa. Usually a motion of no confidence may be introduced in parliament by any member of the legislature and it would then be debated and voted on by parliament. If the motion is adopted this usually entails that the head of government and his or her cabinet members have to resign, since the executive needs the support of the majority of members in parliament to remain in power. The importance of the mechanism of a motion of no confidence is therefore twofold. Firstly, it is one of the most important legislative control mechanisms to ensure accountability of the executive to the legislature. Secondly, it gives effect to the constitutional principle underlying most parliamentary systems that the executive remains in power only with the support of the majority of the members in the legislature. Unfortunately it seems as if the latter principle could be neglected in favour of the former - the judgment being a case in point.

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