South Africa

Zuma cornered: ANC parliamentarians mark the final 24 hours

By Marianne Merten 14 February 2018

The ANC parliamentary caucus drew the line in the sand on Wednesday, closing down options for defiance by President Jacob Zuma after his party’s decision to recall him from the Union Buildings. If Zuma does not tender his resignation sometime on Wednesday, a sitting of the House on Thursday will debate the EFF motion of no confidence – amended by the ANC to make it its own – and with no opposition to such a motion expected, directly move on to elect a new president. By MARIANNE MERTEN.

The thing about parliamentary rules, procedures and practice – where there’s a will there’s a way. The EFF motion of no confidence was first on the order paper and first up for debate on Wednesday. There was no way around it. And there was no possibility the EFF motion of no confidence was going to be withdrawn.

They flatly refused,” said ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu of his talks with the EFF. And so the ANC decided it will bring an amendment to make this opposition party motion its own, even if “ideally” it would have liked to bring a fresh one in its name.

This amendment to the EFF no confidence motion is brought to include ANC reasons for the no confidence motion in President Jacob Zuma. It is possible under Parliament’s guide to procedures and the exact wording will emerge when the matter goes to the House. Such an amendment was one of the options raised in a series of discussions among a group of ANC MPs on Tuesday, as well as meetings between parliamentary officials and politicians.

It is politically important for the ANC to put its stamp on this parliamentary process – the governing party holds dear its long-standing tradition that no one but the ANC tells the ANC what to do.

The backroom machinations to reach this point are important. Daily Maverick understands Mthembu went to the EFF offices to negotiate the withdrawal of its motion of no confidence. That may not have succeeded, but what did materialise was the EFF’s postponement of its court action to force Parliament to bring forward the debate from its scheduled date of 22 February to this week.

This is now a moot point, even if in terms of parliamentary procedure National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has to agree to the rescheduling. The Chief Whip’s Forum later on Wednesday is expected to agree to the rescheduling of the no confidence motion – opposition parties supported that EFF call earlier this week – and for the scheduling of Thursday’s special sitting of the House.

Official notice of the EFF motion of no confidence was scheduled for Thursday, emerged quickly after the ANC parliamentary caucus.

National Assembly Speaker Ms Baleka Mbete has sent a letter to Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Leader Mr Julius Malema informing him that she has decided to reschedule the motion of no confidence in the President for Thursday, 15 February 2018 at 14.00,” said Parliament’s statement. An urgent programming committee meeting was called for Wednesday afternoon – it usually sits on Thursday mornings – to officially reschedule Parliament’s programme.

If Zuma resigns on Wednesday, even if a minute to midnight, the no confidence motion debate and vote would fall away. But the ANC is determined to move immediately to the election of a new president in terms of Section 86 of the Constitution, pending the availability of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. A maximum of 30 days are available for this process, with Mbete stepping in as acting president.

However, Mthembu and ANC Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile, briefing journalists after the special ANC parliamentary caucus, were adamant the governing party now needed to move with speed to end the uncertainty that has prevailed for 10 days amid postponements, rescheduling and re-calling of meetings.

The ANC NEC (National Executive Committee) has decided on the recall. The (ANC parliamentary) caucus is acting on the basis of that decision,” said Mthembu.

We would like to create certainty,” said Mashatile, adding later: “We are moving ahead. He (Zuma) will find us on the way. South Africa doesn’t want uncertainty. It’s not fair on the ANC. It’s not fair on the country… We want to go on with renewal.”

And to emphasise the governing party’s determination to end its political quagmire, Mthembu later added:

I can assure you, as the ANC, we are firm. SONA (State of the Nation Address) will be held on Friday… and the debate on Monday and the new president will respond on Tuesday”.

It’s not quite as straight forward. If Zuma doesn’t resign and it comes down to a motion of no confidence – it will be carried, the ANC chief whip and treasurer were adamant – then under Section 102 of the Constitution the president, Cabinet and deputy ministers must resign. However, clearly aware of the time pressures ahead of the Budget on 21 February – postponing this is non-negotiable due to the damage this would do to South Africa’s fragile, damaged economic governance – there’s a plan: Parliament will meet for at least a Budget statement, it emerged from the post-ANC parliamentary caucus briefing.

Would it be possible for Zuma to refuse to resign as is required after a successful motion of no confidence under Section 102 of the Constitution? No, said Mashatile: “It’s no longer possible if you have a motion (of no confidence), he’s gone”.

And with this the ante in the game of politics to ensure Zuma’s exit from the Union Buildings, was upped irrevocably. It’s all eyes on Zuma now. DM

Photo: ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu (SAPA)

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