THE African National Congress (ANC) conceded on Thursday that the constitution allows motions of no confidence in the president, but said this was not an automatic right and used its majority to kill opposition calls for such a debate.
Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, commenting on the decision of the programming committee, said it "is clear evidence that the ANC is running scared".
The reality was that the ANC was not confident that its own caucus would vote the motion down if it was debated and voted on, Ms Mazibuko said.
Rather than put the motion to the National Assembly, where all MPs could vote on the matter, "the ANC would rather undermine the constitution and the values it enshrines by preventing the matter from even being considered".
"There are also clearly not enough ANC MPs who are willing to stand up in Parliament to attest to the president’s honour, integrity and fitness for office.
"This is because they know, as do a majority of South Africans, that President Zuma has done little to earn our confidence in his leadership," Ms Mazibuko said.
ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said 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, National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu noted that the committee always made decisions by consensus.
Therefore the debate could not be scheduled, and the meeting was adjourned.
A little over a week ago the majority of opposition parties in Parliament mandated the DA to give notice that it would move a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma because under his watch the judiciary had been politicised, unemployment had grown, corruption had flourished and the right to decent education had been violated.
Controversial opposition motions are usually listed on the bottom of the National Assembly’s order paper and lapse at the end of the parliamentary year without seeing the light of day.
However, the parties believed that because of the constitutional mention of a no-confidence debate, and given that the opposition was united as never before, the ANC would have to have allowed the motion to go ahead.
Thursday’s meeting of Parliament’s programming committee discussed the scheduling of such a debate, following a special meeting of the ANC’s parliamentary caucus on Wednesday, at which it was decided that the call for a no-confidence debate be rejected.
DA chief whip Watty Watson had requested the scheduling of such a debate to be put on the committee’s agenda.
Mr Watson said if the ANC majority refused to allow it, that would denigrate the constitution since it provides for debates of no confidence in the president.