President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

THE African National Congress (ANC) on Thursday used its majority muscle to silence opposition calls for a debate over a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma because Parliament’s programming committee could not reach consensus on the matter.

This follows a special meeting of the ANC’s parliamentary caucus on Wednesday where it was decided that the call for a no-confidence debate be rejected because it was frivolous and playing politics.

Last week, Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko — on behalf of eight opposition parties — gave notice in the assembly that she would move for a motion of no confidence in the president.

At Thursday’s meeting of the programming committee, a request from DA chief whip Watty Watson for the scheduling of such a debate to be placed on the agenda was agreed to by National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu.

Mr Watson said the debate had to be placed on the schedule before the recess started at the end of next week as it was a matter of great importance. He also pointed out that the majority of opposition parties represented wanted the debate.

If the ANC majority refused to allow the debate, he said, it would denigrate the constitution, which provides for debates of no confidence in the president.

ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said, however, that he had been sent to the meeting by the ANC caucus to reject the notion of a no-confidence debate "with the contempt it deserves" because the motion was frivolous.

When no consensus could be reached in the meeting, Mr Sisulu noted that the committee always made decisions by consensus and therefore the debate could not be scheduled.

A statement issued by the ANC caucus concluded that "if these opposition parties want a president of their choice, they should wait for the elections in 2014. We will be ready to contest them.

"What we cannot allow, though, is turning this legislature into the only institution in the world in which a matter as serious as a motion of no confidence in the president is turned into a political football, in which desperate opposition parties table such a motion at the slightest provocation. The electoral wishes of the people cannot be undermined and usurped at will.

"Caucus has therefore unanimously decided to oppose the programming of this motion on the order paper of the National Assembly."

The eight opposition parties had asked the National Assembly to resolve, in terms of provision 102(2) of the constitution, that it had no confidence in Mr Zuma on the grounds that, under his leadership:

• the justice system had been weakened and politicised;

• corruption in the public service had spiralled out of control;

• unemployment levels continued to increase;

• the economy was weakening; and

• the right of access to quality education had been violated.