THE Western Cape High Court on Thursday dismissed an urgent application to force a parliamentary debate on a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.
Opposition parties including the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Congress of the People had brought the motion on the grounds that under Mr Zuma, "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".
In his ruling on Thursday afternoon, Judge Dennis Davis said there were gaps in National Assembly rules, but found it was not for the court to dictate to Parliament.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko had on Tuesday brought the court application on behalf of eight opposition parties. Lawyers for the parties argued that the motion needed to be debated in Parliament on Thursday or it would effectively lapse.
Judge Davis said Ms Mazibuko had every right to table such a motion under the constitution, which provided that no majority had the power to subvert this right for any individual member of minority parties, who represented a section of the electorate.
But, he said, there was a lack of a “deadlock-breaking mechanism” in the parliamentary rules when a no-confidence motion was being considered by the National Assembly programming committee.
In summary, Judge Davis ruled: “The applicant had the right to bring a motion of no confidence; that motion of no confidence should be treated as a matter of urgency; the time should have been found to have that (debate); and the rules should be provided to ensure that the National Assembly rather than the courts makes the determination on what occurs.”
On Wednesday, the African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament seemed to buckle under pressure as it backtracked on blocking the proposed motion.
Earlier this month, the ANC’s parliamentary caucus had said it would not allow the motion to be debated because it was "frivolous" and based on "allegations".
But on Wednesday, ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said the motion was "serious in nature and could have far-reaching implications for Parliament, this country and our democracy".
He said the ANC would agree to the debate on the motion, but it would be tabled only next year.
The constitution stipulates that a no-confidence motion can be brought against the president and, if it is supported by the majority of the National Assembly, the president and his Cabinet must step down.
"Consistent with our longstanding view, which also forms part of our argument in the Western Cape High Court, we have no misgivings about debating motions in the house, including the motion of no confidence in the president — which is a matter that is provided for in the constitution," Mr Motshekga said on Wednesday.
However, he said it was not possible for the debate to take place before the last sitting as MPs had other commitments and cancelling them "would place a significant administrative, logistical and financial burden on the institution".
With Sapa and Bekezela Phakathi