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Reading Makhudu Sefara’s opinion piece on the ANC position on the motion of no confidence by a group of opposition parties against President Jacob Zuma, one can only conclude that he has just emerged from a period of self-imposed hibernation (“Motion is anything but frivolous”, The Star, November 16).
For the editor of a newspaper that has published many reports detailing the reasons the ANC believes the motion is frivolous, he exhibits ignorance on the motivation we have advanced for our stance.
On October 23, Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota claimed through a statement in the House that “the president’s office defied an order by the Supreme Court of Appeals to hand over the abbreviated transcripts of the terms that permitted criminal charges to be dropped or withdrawn against him”.
On the basis of this claim, Lekota called for “impeachment procedures” to be instituted against the president for “defying a lawful judicial order”.
Lekota subsequently indicated in the media that his party would invoke section 89 of the constitution to impress upon Parliament to remove the president.
In terms of section 89(1), the president can be removed from office on the grounds of (a) a serious violation of the constitution or the law; (b) serious misconduct; or (c) inability to perform the functions of office.
A member of Parliament who agitates for the removal of the president in terms of this section is therefore required to provide factual evidence to satisfy these grounds provided for in the constitution.
In terms of this section, Lekota would have been required to table a substantive motion before the National Assembly, with an attachment of irrefutable evidence proving the grounds for removal of the president, for consideration.
By merely making disparaging allegations against the president without following this due process, Lekota was in blatant violation of parliamentary rules and procedures – which are informed by section 89 of the constitution.
The freedom of speech and parliamentary privileges, which protect them from legal actions arising from statements they make in Parliament, are subject to the rules that govern Parliament.
It is for this reason that Lekota was subsequently ruled out of order and ordered to withdraw his statements.
The second transgression of Lekota’s statement of allegations is that he deliberately misled Parliament by presenting false information before the House.
The Supreme Court of Appeal did not issue an order against the president or the president’s office for the handing over of tapes, as Lekota claimed.
In terms of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal in the DA vs the National Director of Public Prosecutions case, the judicial order was directed at the “first respondent” – which is the National Prosecuting Authority.
There was no order by the Supreme Court of Appeal against the president or his office to produce any record or documents.
Even if Lekota meant that the president should force the NPA to hand over the tapes, this would still be misleading as in terms of an act of Parliament the NPA is an independent institution and does not take instructions from the president.
It was on this basis that a motion of censure was tabled against Lekota for misleading Parliament, which is a serious transgression in terms of the rules.
On November 7, Lekota’s “impeachment” idea, which he said would be proposed in terms of section 89, metamorphosed into the so-called motion of no confidence by the DA’s Lindiwe Mazibuko on behalf of a group of opposition parties, this time in terms of section 102.
Several observations can be made from Lekota’s change of tactics – if not antics. First, in Lekota’s realising that his procedural transgressions in pursuit of his obsession against Zuma discredited his impeachment idea, he gave it a new face in the person of Mazibuko and several miniature opposition parties.
Second, realising that there is no factual basis for this motion, he backtracked on section 89 in favour of 102 of the constitution. While section 89 requires that a removal of the president be substantiated by factual evidence, section 102 is open to abuse due to its silence on what grounds a motion of no confidence should be advanced. This reinforces our conviction that the motion is frivolous and baseless.
Several accusations were made in the opposition parties’ motion as grounds for the president’s removal.
The accusations include the Marikana tragedy, the Nkandla upgrade, the economic challenges including unemployment and the country’s downgrades. These are spurious claims not borne out by fact.
It is malicious to suggest a link between the Marikana tragedy and the president.
There is a judicial commission of inquiry that is under way to determine the cause and the circumstances that led to the tragic events at the Marikana mine.
This commission has neither concluded its inquiry nor made findings.
The allegations relating to Nkandla are the subject of an investigation by the Department of Public Works, the public protector and the auditor-general. These are not investigations of the president or his office, so can’t be used to cast aspersions on his person and integrity of his office.
The allegation relating to the economy and unemployment are absurd. South Africa, as part of the globalised economy, is one of the many countries affected by the world economic downturn of 2008. In fact, our prudent and tough fiscal regulatory systems have cushioned our domestic economy from the adverse effects of this downturn.
Barack Obama, the president of the country where the recession started, never had to be embarrassed by the opposition Republicans with a motion of this nature.
The constitution states that a government must be based on the will of the people. Over 11 million people chose Zuma and the ANC in 2009 to lead them for five years. Their will therefore cannot be usurped willy-nilly.
The notion that we are scared of a debate is incredible. This movement comes from a rich culture and tradition of robust debate.
We agreed to debate a similar motion by Cope in 2010 not because it was legitimate or based on substance, but to prove and demonstrate to sceptics that we are committed to parliamentary democracy and that this movement never shies away from a debate.
Any sensible South African would conclude that this motion is thick on generalised allegations and hogwash, but thin on fact, which makes it illegitimate and not worthy of Parliament’s time.