Tshwane - Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were assembling at the Church Square in Pretoria on Tuesday morning, ahead of their march to the Union Buildings aimed at urging members of Parliament to remove President Jacob Zuma.

EFF leader in Tshwane Benjamin Disoloane told African News Agency (ANA) that the march in the capital city was in solidarity with other protests across the country, particularly in Cape Town where numerous organisations will march to the National Assembly as parliamentarians vote in the motion of no confidence in Zuma brought by opposition parties.

"We want to make sure that Zuma must fall. We are in solidarity with those marching to the National Assembly. We will do our part from this side," said Disoloane. "We are confident that today Zuma will be voted out."

Several violent protests have reportedly erupted in parts of Gauteng including Mamelodi and Atteridgeville. Disoloane said the protests are communities' message to Zuma.

"Members is those communities know and understand the corruption of President Zuma. They are saying that corruption must end today. That is why people are gathering across the regions," said Disoloane. He said however there was no plans to hand over a memorandum at the Union Buildings.

A small crowd of EFF supporters on Tuesday gathered at Church Square in Pretoria CBD ahead of their march to Union Buildings, urging members of Parliament to remove Zuma. Pictures: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

A huge number of police officers have been deployed to the Union Buildings, ahead of the EFF march. Some shop owners in Pretoria CBD were reluctant to open their businesses on Tuesday, fearing possible looting.

Disoloane said there was no reason for businesses to close.

"We are a respected organisation, we don't do things like looting. This march was applied for and approved. Our march is peaceful. The police are just here to do their work, and we are not intimidated by police presence," he said.

After a rather surprising announcement by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete on Monday that a vote of no confidence would happen via a secret ballot, opposition parties were buoyed, by the prospect that their eighth attempt to remove Zuma from office.

“Having considered all the factors, and mindful of the fact that this decision is not setting a precedent, I determine that voting on the motion of no confidence in the President on 8 August 2017 will be by secret ballot,” Mbete told journalists at a media briefing in Parliament, reading a statement and not taking questions.

“The value of openness and transparency is always our natural manner of conducting business, and which we should never take for granted.”

Mbete said she took to heart what the Constitutional Court said, including if there was a prevailing toxic or highly charged atmosphere.

“I also understand and accept that central to the freedom of a Member of Parliament (Member) ‘to follow the dictates of personal conscience’ is the fact that the Member takes an oath of office of faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution and laws, and there is no constitutional obligation for a Member to swear allegiance to his or her political party.”

Shortly after the briefing the ruling African National Congress (ANC) released a statement, insisting a secret vote would not change the outcome as the party has full confidence in its members to toe the party line. 

“We do not nor have we ever doubted their loyalty and discipline in relation to the decisions of the movement. Accordingly, we have no doubt that this frivolous motion, which has been hyped up by opposition parties as some sort of Damascus moment, will fail like many before it,” said ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa.

Several ANC MPs and other senior leaders have criticised Zuma, with some going as far as publicly supporting the motion of no confidence, which had led to them either being gagged or disciplined by party structures. 

The ANC has been warning its MPs against voting to remove Zuma because it said such a move would collapse the government with long lasting ramifications.

A grouping of opposition parties were, however, not convinced. 

At an impromptu media briefing outside the National Assembly, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh, African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe, Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald, and Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota, said they were canvassing ANC MPs and some had agreed to break ranks with their party position.

Maimane described Mbete’s decision as historic. “The judgment safeguards and brings a victory to the Constitution of the republic and the supremacy of the rule of law,” he said.

Maimane said her decision also gave the country’s leaders the best opportunity steer South Africa in the right direction. If the motion succeeds, Mbete becomes the acting president, pending parliamentary elections being called within 30 days. 

So convinced was Malema the vote would go the opposition’s way, he already referred to Mbete as acting president.

“There are no holy cows. There can’t be special rules for others so if Baleka can go against the party line it means they [ANC MPs] can go against the party line,” he said.

He denied cash being offered to ANC MPs as inducement, and said this was an attempt to discredit his claims that he was persuading “die-hard” ANC MPs.

“Many of them have said to us, if it’s secret he [Zuma] is gone. It’s not like we are just bluffing. We are serious about it.”

The National Assembly is made up of 400 MPs - with the ANC having 249 MPs - the majority in the House. The opposition needs 201 votes (with the help of ANC MPs) to remove Zuma.

In similar motion in November last year, a vote for Zuma to stay garnered 214 votes, while 126 voted against. One person sustained and another 58 did not vote at all.

The motion will be debated from 2pm on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the secret ballot.