PARLIAMENT - Parliament said on Wednesday that preparations were well underway for a packed schedule of major events over the next week, including the rearranged state-of-the-nation address now scheduled for Friday evening.
"With the announcement of the SONA date, Parliament is already underway with finalising preparations, which were already at an advanced stage, to realise a successful ceremony on Friday,"Parliament said in a statement.
"This includes contacting all guests to inform them of the new date and to finalise their accreditation process."
South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party earlier announced deadlines and timelines in its bid to oust Jacob Zuma, the country's head of state.
A letter of recall was hand delivered to Zuma by ANC top officials on Tuesday. By Wednesday, when it became clear Zuma would dig in his heels and a resignation letter would not be forthcoming, the party gave the parliamentary caucus the go-ahead to vote him out of office.
"I have now reported to the caucus that the NEC [national executive committee of ANC] has decided to recall President Zuma and the deadline [for Zuma to resign] is today," ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile told a media briefing after handing the party's instructions to caucus.
"We have now asked the chief whip to proceed with the motion of no confidence tomorrow...so that President Zuma is then removed so that we can then proceed to elect President [Cyril] Ramaphosa..."
Sona was initially scheduled for 8 February but was postponed two days before "due to the serious circumstances within and outside the institution" which, according to Parliament included the very real likelihood of disruptions should Zuma deliver the address and the uncertainty over his position as state president.
In its statement Wednesday, Parliament said: "The presiding officers indicated, at the time, that the outcome of the thorough consultative process, including with the President of the Republic, the Leader of Government Business, the Chief Whip of the Majority Party and other key stakeholders, warranted the difficult decision of the SONA postponement until a conducive environment obtained.
"Parliament appreciates the sense of anxiety and uncertainty amongst many South Africans regarding this protracted process. The new developments announced today, therefore, seek to bring this matter to its conclusion in the best interests of South Africa and her people."
Parliament then reiterated the timeline of events for the next week which concludes with the National Budget on Wednesday.
A decision was taken to hold a sitting of the National Assembly to consider a proposed Motion of No Confidence in the President of the Republic, Mr JG Zuma, forThursday, 15 February 2018. The motion was initially scheduled for 22 February 2018 taking into account the programme of the National Assembly. The request for the scheduling of this motion was made by the Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters.
"The decision to schedule this motion for tomorrow, Thursday 15 February, was made after consultation with the Leader of Government Business and the Chief Whip of the Majority Party and was supported by various political parties represented on the National Assembly’s Programme Committee."
Parliament confirmed that voting on the motion will by open ballot.
Also agreed at this afternoon’s multiparty National Assembly Programme Committee meeting was the following:
- Election of the new President at 10.00 on Friday, 16 February, subject to a directive of the Chief Justice to that effect
- Joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces at 19.00 on Friday, 16 February for the President to deliver the 2018 State of the Nation Address
- Joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces on Monday, 19 February, to debate the President’s State of the Nation Address
- Reply by the President to the debate on Tuesday, 20 February
- Budget Speech at 14.00 on 21 February
"Should the Motion of No Confidence succeed against the President, the Speaker will officially inform Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng about the outcome and request him to determine an appropriate date for the election of a new President by the National Assembly. The Chief Justice is responsible for presiding over the election of a new President, or may designate another judge to do so.
"In terms of Section 86(3), an election to fill a vacancy in the office of President must be held at a time and on a date determined by the Chief Justice, but not more than 30 days after the occurrence of the vacancy."
"The Presiding Officers of Parliament once again extend appreciation to all South Africans for their patience, understanding and admirable sense of patriotism during this critical period in our country."
The motion of no confidence was brought by the ANC's political opponents, the Economic Freedom Fighters, and is scheduled for February 22.
While the ANC cannot bring its own motion, which party chief whip Jackson Mthembu said would have been "ideal", parliamentary rules allow a party to bring an amendment to a motion. Essentially, what this means, said Mthembu earlier on Wednesday, is that the ANC was not against the "substance of the motion", but would provide different reasons to Parliament on why Zuma should be removed from office through a no confidence motion.
"We are bringing in the ANC reasons why the president must be removed. It looks like we are all in agreement that the president must go...including the ANC," said Mthembu.
If Zuma resigns before the scheduled sitting of the National Assembly at 2pm on Thursday, the ANC will move quickly to replace him with Ramaphosa through a vote in the House. If this does not happen, the amended motion of no confidence proceeds. If this is successful, Zuma's cabinet has to resign and Speaker Baleka Mbete becomes acting President. According to the South African Constitution, a new president has to be elected within 30 days.
African News Agency/ANA