Johannesburg – The requests by opposition parties for an urgent debate on a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma will be given the “appropriate consideration” which would start immediately, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete said on Sunday.
The motion of no confidence follows sustained criticism from all sides of the political spectrum of Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle at midnight on Thursday and in the early hours of Friday morning. Highly regarded finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas were among several ministers and deputies fired.
Speaking to journalists at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg after she cut short her trip to the assembly of the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Bangladesh, Mbete said her office had received a request from Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane on Thursday March 30 for a motion of no confidence in Zuma to be scheduled.
The letter indicated that the motion be scheduled when Parliament reconvened in May. Later on the same day a similar request was received from Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema. This letter also asked for the Assembly to be convened for a special sitting next week to debate and vote on a similar motion, she said.
“On Friday 31 March my office received a further letter, again from the official opposition [DA], requesting that the National Assembly resume its business earlier to process the motion.”
The procedure for processing a motion of no confidence, which was a right Members of Parliament in line with the oversight function of Parliament, was stipulated in the rules of the National Assembly, Mbete said.
Once such a request was submitted to the speaker the rules outlined the process. Firstly, the request had to be assessed to ascertain whether it was compliant with the appropriate rules.
Then followed consultation with the chief whip of the majority party, currently Jackson Mthembu, and the leader of government business, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Finally, came the scheduling of the motion within a reasonable time given the programme of the Assembly.
MPs were currently undertaking their “constituency responsibilities” across the country and were scheduled to return to Parliament from the beginning of May. The consultation process prescribed by the rules was meant to deal with these issues, Mbete said.
“Given the seriousness inherent in the motions of [no] confidence and their implications on the nation, I have, therefore, decided to cut my working trip to Bangladesh to ensure that these requests are given the appropriate consideration.
“In terms of the Constitution and in terms of the clarification provided by the Constitutional Court in the Mazibuko vs Sisulu matter, as and when a motion of this magnitude is called and is in line with the rules it must be scheduled and must receive priority.
“I will therefore as of today [Sunday] begin a process of consultation contemplated in the rules in the consideration of the requests submitted. I envisage that the consultation should be concluded as soon as possible. Once the consultation process is concluded my office will duly write to all the parties involved to advise them of the outcome,” Mbete said.