DA leader Mmusi Maimane File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Parliament - Opposition leader Mmusi Maimane on Tuesday invited senior African National Congress (ANC) MPs by name to defy their party and vote in favour of the opposition motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.

Maimane told the National Assembly he knew that former president Nelson Mandela would have had the courage to vote with the opposition to remove Zuma from power.

"I would hope that there are enough people in this house who would put politics aside and do what is right," Maimane said.

He singled out former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, whose sacking by Zuma triggered the motion, and asked whether could be counted on to vote in favour of it.

"Honourable Gordhan, would you play your part today in resetting the course of history?"

He then proceeded to ask the same of former tourism minister Derek Hanekom and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

And he saluted dissident ANC MP Makhosi Khoza who has vowed to vote with her conscience as doing the "honourable and the ultimate service to our people".

Speaker Baleka Mbete announced on Monday that she would allow the vote on the motion to happen by secret ballot, raising opposition hopes that ruling party MPs would support it.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme pleaded with ANC colleagues not to let down the millions of South African voters who had put their trust in the ruling party.

"This is not a motion against the ANC, it is not a motion to remove the ANC government, it is a motion to remove Mr Jacob Zuma," she said.

"It is clear that Jacob Zuma has sold out our country, including his own party... Please put an end to the Zuma oligarchy."

She said ANC struggle heroes must be turning in their graves to see what had become of a once great movement.