NATIONAL Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete has agreed to a debate of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, but only on a suitable date in the parliamentary programme after the State of the Nation address on February 11.

This follows a request from Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane last month.

Ms Mbete said in a letter to Mr Maimane on December 23 that the framework programme for Parliament had already been agreed and the debate would be arranged at a suitable date after the official opening.

Previous motions of no confidence in the president have been easily defeated by the African National Congress (ANC) majority, but this year’s debate will come on persistent rumours that Mr Zuma may be removed from office before the end of his term.

Mr Maimane said in a statement on Monday: "The speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, has agreed in writing to my request for a debate on a motion of no confidence in president Zuma, following (his) reckless decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene.

"In a letter responding to my request, the speaker confirmed that her office is in the process of consulting with the leader of government business and the chief whip of the majority party to schedule the motion ‘within a reasonable period of time’, and confirmed that the motion will be published on the first available order paper in 2016."

"President Zuma’s leadership on the economy is nonexistent, and he is incapable of leading us out of the crisis of low growth and high unemployment that we face. The reality is, without a strong and growing economy, jobs cannot be created for the millions of South Africans who simply cannot find work," he said.

ANC spokesman in Parliament Moloto Mothapo said: "The ANC stands ready to reaffirm the confidence of ... South Africans in the leadership of President Jacob Zuma and his executive through superior arguments, as we have consistently done in the past. A motion of no confidence is supposed to serve as a critical tool of oversight ... but the DA has abused, misused and trivialised this type of motion to score a few headlines."