ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga at Parliament on Thursday. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

MATHOLE Motshekga, the African National Congress (ANC) chief whip in the National Assembly, on Thursday accused the Democratic Alliance (DA) and other opposition parties of using a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma to try to influence the ANC’s Mangaung elective conference held in December.

A call from the combined opposition for a no-confidence debate on the president dominated the last few weeks of last year’s parliamentary sitting. The motion was tabled by DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko on behalf of the eight non-ANC parties, including the African Christian Democratic Party, Congress of the People and the Freedom Front Plus.

They contended that under Mr Zuma’s leadership the justice system had been politicised and weakened, corruption had spiralled out of control, unemployment was increasing, the economy was weakening and the right of access to quality education had been violated.

Ms Mazibuko then lost a bid to force National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu to schedule a debate on the motion before the sitting of the house closed for 2012.

In November, the Constitutional Court agreed to hear an application for the motion to be debated in Parliament. At the time, Ms Mazibuko said: “The Constitutional Court has agreed to hear my application on the ANC’s attempts to delay the debate on the motion ... as well as the speaker’s failure to break the political deadlock and schedule the debate.”

Mr Motshekga, speaking on Thursday after the DA and other parties declined to continue with a debate on motion in a meeting of Parliament’s programming committee, said the fact that they did not want the motion revived showed that it had initially been made with “frivolity and mischief”.

“Today’s sudden U-turn by the DA-led coalition of opposition parties lays bare the true motives behind this motion and thereby confirms our long-held view that the motion was groundless and unnecessary from the onset,” he said, adding that “it is now clear to all South Africans that this particular motion served no other purpose than to tarnish the image of President Zuma with a view to influencing the outcome of the ANC’s elective conference last year.”

Mr Motshekga added: “Now that the conference has come and gone and President Zuma remains at the helm of the ANC, the DA and its parliamentary allies suddenly lose interest. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the true intentions behind that particular motion.”

‘We will not be bullied’

The DA, however, said later on Thursday that the opposition parties had every intention of retabling the motion “as soon as the Constitutional Court has heard the matter”.

“This is our prerogative as MPs and we will not be dictated to and bullied by President Zuma’s henchman in Parliament, Dr Mathole Motshekga,” said DA chief whip Watty Watson.

According to the National Assembly rules, the original motion lapsed at the end of Parliament’s 2012 session, he said. “This was one of the compelling reasons, we argued, that the motion had to be debated before the end of the year.”

Mr Watson added: “The ANC ignored this fact and now wish to set in stone a dangerous and unconstitutional precedent whereby it can tell individual MPs whether and when we can table motions of no confidence in the president.”

The Constitutional Court has instructed the speaker to table a report by March 14 on progress made in including motions of no confidence in the rules of the National Assembly. The application will be heard on March 28.

“We look forward to seeing this report, and the ANC would do well to respect the Constitutional Court in waiting for this direction,” Mr Watson said, adding that the matter before the courts now turns on “whether the constitution envisages that any MP who tables a motion of no confidence in the president must first seek the permission of the majority party before he or she may have such a motion scheduled and debated”.