"This phenomenal backtracking from the African National Congress chief whip, who two weeks ago tried to block the motion from being heard at all, continues to undermine the Constitution, which enables the National Assembly to remove a sitting president through a majority vote," the parties said in a joint statement.
Chief whip Mathole Motshekga said on Wednesday that he did not oppose the motion being scheduled, but that it would not be possible for the debate to take place before the last sitting of the House this year. Motshekga said committee meetings, oversight visits and international study tours were planned for MPs from November 26 to December 7.
"Cancelling these commitments or summoning back all MPs for a special sitting would place a significant administrative, logistical and financial burden on the institution," he said.
The Western Cape High Court is expected to rule on Thursday on an urgent application brought by Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko on behalf of the major opposition parties in Parliament.
It seeks to compel National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu to schedule a debate and a vote on the motion against President Jacob Zuma before Parliament goes into recess.
Last week, Sisulu adjourned an Assembly programming committee meeting without the debate being scheduled, on the basis that no consensus had been reached.
Mazibuko officially gave notice of the motion in the House on November 8.
She brought it on the grounds "that under his [Zuma's] leadership the justice system has been politicised and weakened; corruption has spiralled out of control; unemployment continues to increase, the economy is weakening, and the right of access to quality education has been violated".
The opposition parties said Motshekga wanted the debate to take place next year because the ANC national executive committee had over-ruled his initial "rash, and unconstitutional position".
"He is doing nothing more than manipulating Parliament to make sure that he reaches the same desired goal: protecting president Zuma from Parliamentary scrutiny at all costs," they said. – Sapa