Moves to oust Jacob Zuma received a boost on Wednesday evening when National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete finally agreed to postpone a special sitting to debate a motion of no confidence in the President.
The motion of no confidence was due to be heard on April 18 but it has been postponed to allow the Constitutional Court to first decide whether it can be done by secret ballot.
Mbete’s decision came after a day of wrangling on Wednesday between her and the Democratic Alliance – which initially applied for the motion of no confidence – over whether the motion should be withdrawn or postponed.
DA Chief Whip John Steenhuissen welcomed the decision. He said the party believed that it would have been‚ “remarkably disrespectful for the National Assembly to proceed with the debate and vote while the Constitutional Court‚ the highest court in the Republic‚ was deliberating on a matter directly linked to the motion.”
The postponement‚ he said‚ would give ANC MPs time to reflect on their commitment to South Africa. “For as long as Jacob Zuma remains at the Union Buildings‚ the people‚ especially the poor and jobless‚ will continue suffer.”
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa threw a spanner in the works after asking the Constitutional Court to consider whether the motion of no confidence could be decided by a secret vote. The court in turn asked all parties intending to oppose his application to file responding papers by no later than April 21 – after the motion of no confidence debate was originally scheduled. Political parties lobbied for the debate to be postponed.
Mbete insisted earlier on Wednesday that the rules of the National Assembly did not give her the authority to withdraw the motion. Maimane and his chief whip John Steenhuisen‚ however‚ argued that they were not asking for a withdrawal but rather a postponement.
Postponing the debate is likely to have cost implications for the legislature as flights had already been booked for close to 400 MPs who were recalled from their Easter break.
Steenhuisen said the DA was not willing to take the risk of withdrawing the motion because it would have to go through the whole process of approval and scheduling again.