President Jacob Zuma. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

FOR the first time since 1994, the majority of South Africa’s opposition parties will table a motion of no confidence against the president of the country, citing Jacob Zuma’s inability to uphold the constitution and the state of the economy, among other reasons.

The parties are the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party, Congress of the People (COPE), Azanian People’s Organisation, Freedom Front Plus, United Christian Democratic Party and United Democratic Movement.

Three other minority parties — the African People’s Convention, Pan Africanist Congress and Minority Front — do not appear to support the motion.

COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota said in Parliament on Thursday that the parties were being driven by their consciences, as they believed their oaths of office to uphold the constitution meant they had to table the motion.

Mr Lekota cited a number of reasons for the motion, including the downgrade of South Africa’s sovereign rating, the Marikana mining massacre and the failure of the state to deliver textbooks to schoolchildren in Limpopo.

DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said the speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, would be approached about the motion and that it would be unprecedented if he refused to allow a debate about it.

Freedom Front Plus parliamentary leader Pieter Groenewald said: “If he (Sisulu) doesn’t want a debate, then he will be part of failing democracy.”

ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe said the parties would also call for the ballot in the National Assembly to be conducted in secret.

“There are many within the ANC (African National Congress) who are against President Zuma,” he said. “We have seen the registration of the South African National Congress recently and the emergence of the ‘Anyone But Zuma’ campaign within the ANC.”

The office of the ANC chief whip said, however, it would “quash any frivolous and narrow publicity-seeking gimmicks masquerading as motions in the National Assembly by some opposition parties”.

“The so-called ‘motion of no confidence’ in President Jacob Zuma is a desperate, if not silly, publicity stunt by a group of attention-seeking opposition leaders,” it said. “Such a stunt would be laughable or dismissed with silent contempt if it did not make a mockery of this august Parliament. It is unacceptable that this institution’s time should be wasted on such mischievous antics of opposition leaders who clearly do not take this institution seriously.”

It said the motion was not based on fact or evidence, and therefore amounted to nothing but character assassination. “In our view, it is a waste of Parliament’s time, a playful, silly publicity stunt, and therefore belongs in the rubbish bin.”

• This article was amended on October 8 2012 to add the Inkatha Freedom Party to the list of opposition parties supporting the motion.