The SACP in KwaZulu-Natal has called for a law to protect the dignity of the office of the president. File photo by Etienne Creux

Cape Town - Opposition parties want a secret ballot so that discontented ANC MPs can also vote to oust President Jacob Zuma as head of state when a motion of no-confidence in him, tabled on Thursday, is debated.

Nine of the 11 opposition parties represented in Parliament have united behind the move, immediately branded by the office of ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga as a “desperate, if not silly, publicity stunt”.

In the National Assembly on Thursday DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said she would move “at the earliest opportunity” that the House resolve “that it has no confidence in President Jacob G Zuma”.

She said the grounds were “that under his leadership the justice system has been politicised and weakened; corruption has spiralled out of control; unemployment continues to increase; the economy is weakening; and the right of access to quality education has been violated”.

Backing the DA are the ACDP, Azapo, Cope, the Freedom Front Plus, IFP, PAC, United Christian Democratic Party and the United Democratic Movement.

The African People’s Convention declined and the Minority Front is not a member of the multiparty forum to which the other parties belong.

Motshekga on Thursday tabled the ANC’s notice of a motion proposing that Parliament reaffirm its full confidence in Zuma’s “able leadership”.

Section 102 (2) of the constitution provides for a president’s removal by a motion of no confidence supported by a simple majority of MPs (50 percent plus one).

If such a motion were to succeed, Zuma, his entire cabinet and deputy ministers would have to resign. The chief justice would have to call a special sitting of the National Assembly and preside over the election of a new president, as happened in 2008 when Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe took over after then-president Thabo Mbeki was recalled by the ANC.

This is not the first motion of no confidence to be brought against Zuma. Then-Cope parliamentary leader Mvume Dandala brought one in 2009, when it was debated and defeated due to the ANC’s superior numbers.

Motshekga’s office said the ANC was determined to “quash any frivolous and narrow publicity-seeking gimmicks masquerading as motions”. The parties involved “ought to know that political power and mandate to lead are obtained through polls, not through the back doors of the National

“The attempt to usurp people’s power through silly motions is bound to fail epically, just like it did before,” a statement said.

“The motion by a group of opposition parties is not based on any fact or evidence, and therefore amounts to nothing but character assassination. In our view, it is a waste of Parliament’s time, a playful, silly publicity stunt and therefore belongs to the rubbish bin.”

Briefing journalists earlier, Lekota said the decision was a response to a “mounting crisis of leadership” evidenced by the Marikana mine shootings; the scandal over Zuma’s Nkandla residence; the textbook delivery debacle in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape; two ratings agencies’ downgrades of the country’s credit rating; “mounting disrespect” for the constitution and judiciary; growing unemployment; and, the “rising tide of corruption in the public service”.

“All of these collectively point to the reality that ours is a country that lacks decisive leadership and vision,” Lekota said.

The National Assembly had elected Zuma to office after the April 2009 elections and it was through Parliament that he was held accountable to South Africans. MPs had “the power and the duty to force the president’s resignation if he fails to maintain the confidence of the citizens of our country”.

Lekota said National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu would be asked for voting on the motion to be done in secret to allow ANC MPs to vote according to their consciences.

Votes in Parliament are usually a matter of public record, in the interests of transparency.

It is understood that it is only when the election of a president or presiding officer is contested that a secret ballot may be held.

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said the decision had not been an easy one to make for him or his party.

“However, we have reached a point at which we can no longer support this president, and if we continue to support him we become part of his failures and the failures into which he has now led our country.”

ACDP president the Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, saying unhappiness with Zuma was not limited to opposition parties and their supporters, cited the “Anyone But Zuma” campaign that ANC members had launched to push for new leadership at the party’s Mangaung conference.

“The majority of citizens are unhappy about the amount of money – almost R250 million – spent on the president’s private residence, and the fact that, until today, Parliament has not been told who authorised the expenditure and what the total expenditure will amount to,” Meshoe said.

Political Bureau