/ 8 November 2012

Parties to file motion of no confidence against Zuma

President Jacob Zuma.
President Jacob Zuma.

Lindiwe Mazibuko, leader of the opposition in Parliament, will table a motion of no confidence in Zuma on behalf of the opposition parties, including the African Christian Democratic Party, Azanian People's Organisation, Congress of the People, the Democratic Alliance, the Freedom Front Plus, the Inkatha Freedom Party and the United Christian Democratic Party on Thursday afternoon.

"President Zuma no longer has the confidence of our political parties to serve as president … " the parties said in a joint statement released on Thursday, listing their reasons.

The parties tabled the Marikana killings; the Nkandlagate scandal; the failure by the government to deliver textbooks and workbooks to school children in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape; the downgrading of South Africa's credit rating by two major ratings agencies; the mounting disrespect for our Constitution and judiciary; unemployment; and the "uncontrollable and rising tide" of corruption in the public service as reasons for the motion.

"All of these collectively point to the reality that ours is a country which lacks decisive leadership and vision," said the parties.

Section 102(2) of the Constitution states that if the National Assembly, supported by a majority of its members, passes a motion of no confidence in the president, the president and the other members of Cabinet and any deputy ministers must resign.' 

"Parliament must demonstrate to the people of our country that it cares about who leads us, and that it's not willing to sit back and let one man destroy the freedom and prosperity that was fought for and promised them," they said. 

The motion has not been supported by the Pan African Congress, the Minority Front or the African People's Convention, which each hold one seat in Parliament.

Unlikely to happen
Constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos said the provision was included in the Constitution to ensure the government of the day has the confidence of Parliament.

If the government doesn't have the confidence of Parliament, that government can be removed through a vote of no confidence. A new government will have to be formed and if this can not be done, an election must be held.

But in order for the motion to be passed, it must be supported by more than 50% of Parliament. It's unlikely that the opposition parties will be able to muster the 50% needed to pass the motion, unless ANC MPs also vote in favour of it. The ANC has a 65.9% majority in Parliament.

"I don't think there are going to be any brave MPs that are going to vote against Jacob Zuma," he said. "It's more of a symbolic thing."

Not the first time
This is not the first time Zuma has faced a motion of no confidence.

In March 2010, Cope filed a motion of no confidence against him. Mvume Dandala, the party's parliamentary leader at the time, said Zuma had lost the confidence of Parliament owing to his "wilful conduct and dangerously flawed judgement".

This came after Zuma appointed advocate Menzi Simelane as national director of public prosecutions despite damning evidence that he had lied before a presidential commission of inquiry; and was accused of weakening the fight against HIV/Aids by fathering a child out of wedlock.

Zuma breezed through the incident unscathed after the ANC proposed – and had accepted — an amendment motion proposing full confidence instead.

At the time, then minister of defence Lindiwe Sisulu urged MPs to change the rules of Parliament so that motions that lack substance or a reasonable prospect of success be thrown out. As the ANC holds two thirds of the seats in Parliament, this would in effect have meant that any motion not brought by the ANC would be thrown out.


* An earlier version of this story did not mention the African People's Convention among the parties that do not support the motion.