President Jacob Zuma is celebrating his 75th birthday. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS
Johannesburg - Backers of President Jacob Zuma are throwing a 75th birthday bash for him in Soweto – far from the madding crowds expected in the streets of the capital city on Wednesday calling for his resignation.

Zuma’s supporters, buoyed by their victory at the Ahmed Kathrada memorial service in Durban on Sunday, where they managed to ambush former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and heckle ANC Treasurer Zweli Mkhize, hope to divert attention from Wednesday’s marches spearheaded by opposition parties and civic groups.

At the commemoration of Chris Hani on Monday, Zuma, who had been under attack from alliance partners the SACP, escaped unscathed and even got the backing of the slain SACP leader’s widow, Limpo.

The president now has one last hurdle – the no confidence motion brought by the DA, which is set to be heard in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Zuma may have suffered a blow on Tuesday when the Constitutional Court allowed the United Democratic Movement (UDM) access to argue why they want the National Assembly to use a secret ballot when the motion is debated.

On Tuesday, opposition parties claimed they had won what they called the first round of the no-confidence motion when the Constitutional Court offered the UDM access to argue the matter.

The parties were now pushing Speaker Baleka Mbete to postpone the debate from April 18 to a date after the UDM case is finalised.

The DA – which pushed for the motion – confirmed yesterday the party had approached Mbete to postpone Tuesday’s debate.

In the directive by the court, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said parties who wanted to oppose the application have to file their papers by Thursday.

The UDM will then have to file its replying affidavit by close of business on April 19, while all parties would have to file their written submissions by April 21. Further directives may be issued by the Constitutional Court, Justice Mogoeng said.

Parliament’s spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the House would comply with the directives of the Constitutional Court and file all the papers.

But he said it was not for the speaker to withdraw the motion, saying the DA needed to withdraw it.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said he had written to Mbete asking for the postponement of the motion until the conclusion of the court case.

“As soon as a decision is taken, the motion must be debated before the Assembly as soon as possible,” said Maimane.

Moloto said Mbete would have to apply her mind on the proposal by the DA to postpone the motion.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said his party was pinning its hopes on the Constitutional Court ordering Mbete to allow a secret ballot.

The only time the ANC allowed its members to vote with their conscience was about 20 years ago when Parliament voted on abortion and the same-sex marriage legislation.

But the ANC has now asked its members to toe the party line and vote against the motion.

Zuma’s critics used a panel discussion at the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria to blast him.

Trade unionist Zwelinzima Vavi blamed Zuma for the country’s crisis and urged South Africans to join the protest marches today.

The former Cosatu leader was one of four panellists invited by the SA Association of Public Administration and Management to speak under the theme: “Is the post-apartheid state unravelling?”

The other panellists were political analysts Mcebisi Ndletyana, former EFF treasurer Magdalene Moonsamy and Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama.

“Unemployment levels have gone to unbelievable levels. At least 9million people are unemployed. We have become the most unequal society in the world,” he said.

“There are 25 million of our people living below the poverty line. There are 14 million who go to bed at night without having eaten anything. That is what we call an unravelling. There is a political crisis,” Vavi said.

He accused Zuma of representing a particular character of crony capitalism where he, his family and friends amassed massive wealth at the expense of the interests of ordinary people. “We are in junk status thanks to the irresponsible and reckless actions of the president.”

Ndletyana agreed with Vavi, saying South Africa was in a leadership crisis. He said Zuma didn’t have money and had a big family to support and was vulnerable to people who were willing to pay big money to gain political influence.

But Mngxitama defended Zuma, saying he had every right to fire and hire members of his cabinet – even going as far as saying he was a radical leader.

“The most radical things Zuma has done are to remove us from the ICC (International Criminal Court); say land must be returned without us paying back; and where is Pravin Gordhan today? He is gone,” Mngxitama said.

On Tuesday, ANC Youth League spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize described the thousands of people expected to take part in the national day of action protest in Pretoria today (Wednesday) as “counter-revolutionary elements and forces”.

The youth league would be mobilising young people from across Gauteng and neighbouring provinces to attend Zuma’s birthday in Kliptown.

The Star