17/10/2012 President Jacob Zuma addresses the media following a meeting with labour, business and ministers in the economic cluster at the Union Buildings. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Cape Town -

The stand-off over the ANC’s refusal to entertain debate on a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma could be headed for the courts.

Opposition parties consulted senior counsel on Thursday after the ANC blocked the motion from being scheduled for debate, amid accusations that it was “running scared”.

Speaker Max Sisulu told a meeting of the National Assembly’s programming committee that as no consensus could be reached, the motion could not be scheduled.

Parties agreed at an urgent meeting of the multi-party forum later on Thursday that they would approach the courts if necessary, and were in advocates’ chambers by late on Thursday afternoon.

Decisions in the programming committee, chaired by Sisulu, are usually reached by consensus. After heated discussion by party representatives, Sisulu said there was no point in referring the matter back to the chief whips’ forum as this would not resolve the impasse.

DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said blocking the motion from being scheduled was “clear evidence” the ANC was “running scared”.

“The reality is that the ANC is not confident that its own caucus would vote the motion down if it was debated and voted on,” she said.

IFP MP Mario Ambrosini said the committee did not have the authority to “impair the exercise of Parliament’s constitutional powers”. Section 102 of the constitution provides for a motion of no confidence to be brought against the president.

At the meeting earlier, ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga attacked the basis for the motion – which the party’s caucus had rejected as “frivolous”.

He accused opposition parties of wasting Parliament’s time. “And we want to say to you, let this be the last time that you do this,” Motshekga said, wagging his finger at opposition MPs – to cries of “Zanu-PF”.

Cope MP Juli Kilian asked why the ANC was suddenly “so sensitive” that it wanted to stifle debate.

She said 10 parties now supported the motion.

Political Bureau