South Africa

State of the Nation Address: Mbete rejects DA, EFF attempts to remove Zuma before opening of Parliament

By Greg Nicolson 2 February 2018

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has told the EFF and DA she can't postpone next Thursday's State of the Nation Address to allow the ANC to recall President Jacob Zuma. Unless the ANC intervenes and intervenes now, Zuma's speech writers should get to work. By GREG NICOLSON.

Baleka Mbete cleared the path on Friday for President Jacob Zuma to once again take the podium at SONA, telling DA leader Mmusi Maimane his request to delay the address was not allowed under parliamentary rules. She told EFF leader Julius Malema a no confidence vote would be held on 22 February, rather than before SONA as requested.

A statement from Parliament on Friday said Mbete told Maimane that Zuma had the power to set the SONA date and it was ratified by the Joint Programme Committee. “The speaker, therefore, had no power to accede to the DA’s request to postpone the State of the Nation Address, scheduled for delivery to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces on 8 February,” said the statement.

Ms Mbete informed EFF leader Mr Julius Malema that she had decided to schedule their requested motion of no confidence in the President for 22 February,” it continued. “The determination had taken into account the programme of the National Assembly, including the State of the Nation Address, debate on the address, the President’s reply to the debate and the tabling of the national budget on 21 February. Ms Mbete had also consulted relevant stakeholders.”

In their correspondence with Mbete, Maimane and Malema said Zuma was compromised as the country’s leader and Parliament should be given a chance to decide his future amid speculation over whether newly-elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa would remove him.

DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen disputed Mbete’s reading of the rules and said the party will again ask her and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Thandi Modise to postpone SONA. On Mbete’s claim she had no power to postpone the event, he said: “This is not only entirely unacceptable, but a clear misinterpretation of what the Rules of Parliament allow.

We simply cannot continue with SONA as if it’s ‘business as usual’ conditions. Criminal charges of corruption against Zuma have been revived and it is now widely expected that he will be removed as President of South Africa by either the ANC or through a parliamentary impeachment motion,” he continued. “These extraordinary circumstances warrant extraordinary action – the ANC cannot hold the country hostage as we wait for their party to recall their lame-duck president.”

On the sidelines of a party plenum meeting in Johannesburg, EFF Deputy President Floyd Shivambu told eNCA: “We’d written to (Mbete) to say that it’s useless to want to have a motion after the State of the Nation Address because the person who’s going to deliver the State of the Nation Address is the person whose suitability we want to question and debate about. So why do we have the State of the Nation Address on the 8th literally less than two weeks later we have a motion of no confidence, which by all ends and purposes is going to remove Jacob Zuma?”

Opposition parties, including the EFF, UDM, IFP, Cope and ACDP, were in the process of holding a joint press briefing on Friday afternoon. UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said they were adamant they did not want Zuma to deliver the SONA, but they had not yet decided whether they might stage a boycott. Some opposition parties have staged walk-outs at recent SONAs or, in the case of the EFF, been violently evicted after protesting against the President.

In its request to Mbete, the EFF said there had been political developments, court judgments and the launch of a commission of inquiry that will investigate Zuma’s role in State Capture, necessitating a vote on his future.

Maimane had said SONA should be delayed until there’s a chance to remove Zuma from office and allowing him to deliver the address, while Ramaphosa’s camp in the ANC fights to remove him, would not be in the bests interests of the country.

Meanwhile, in a separate briefing also in Johannesburg several political movements spoke out in support of President Jacob Zuma and against the calls for his resignation. Movements such as The Unemployed Peoples Trust, Black First Land First, and Umbimbi Lwamabutho, among others gave their support for Zuma to finish his term and called on the ANC to allow him to fulfill his “promises for Radical Economic transformation (RET)”.

A hands-off Zuma march to Luthuli House is being organised by the movements and is expected to be held on Monday.

As BLF we want to say hands off President Jacob Zuma and we want economic liberation now,” said Thandiswa Yaphi, BLF’s Treasurer General.

The ANC’s statements in the media are focusing on the removal from office and arrest of President Zuma. We categorically request that this must be stopped,” said Bafana Nzuzo, chairperson of the Unemployed People’s Trust.

The ANC National Executive Committee has mandated the top six to talk to Zuma about the exit plan, but top officials have contradicted each other on the President’s fate. Reports have suggested Zuma has agreed he must step down at some point, but he is resisting abruptly stepping down from office, and may perhaps even risk a no confidence vote, where the ANC could instruct Members of Parliament to vote him out of office. DM

Additional reporting by Nkateko Mabasa

Photo: South African President Jacob Zuma replies to the debate about his State Of The Nation Address (SONA) in the parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, 16 February 2017. Photo: EPA/NIC BOTHMA

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