Happy birthday, Mr President: A 'gift' of rolling mass action from his opponents

Opposition parties are planning to march to the Union Buildings on Wednesday as President Jacob Zuma turns 75. (AFP)

Opposition parties are planning to march to the Union Buildings on Wednesday as President Jacob Zuma turns 75. (AFP)

Opposition parties have declared Wednesday a “national day of action” and will now embark on a period of “rolling mass action” to unseat President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma will be turning 75 on Wednesday when opposition parties will march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The list of parties preparing to march includes:

  • African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP)
  • Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)
  • The African Independent Congress (AIC)
  • African People’s Convention (APC)
  • Congress of the People (Cope)
  • AgangSA
  • Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)
  • Democratic Alliance (DA)
  • United Democratic Movement (UDM)

At noon on Monday, opposition leaders and members from these parties briefed media on their plans going forward. Reading a press statement issued by the parties, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said that opposition parties are planning this course of united action to put “South Africa and its citizens first”.

EFF leader Julius Malema said South Africans had voted for the ANC to be the governing party, but they didn’t vote for Zuma.
Instead, Malema said, the onus was on the ANC to recall Zuma because the party deployed him to be president.

Mass action now being planned by opposition parties will see Wednesday’s march as the catalyst for further protest action around the country. Malema said plans are underway for protests on April 27 – the Freedom Day public holiday which will commemorate South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994.

Holomisa confirmed that permission had been granted for the march to Union Buildings on Wednesday. Last week’s protest action on Friday, organised by civil society, led to confusion after acting police boss Khomotso Phahlane said protesters did not have permission to march on the Union Buildings.

Save South Africa, a civil society group calling for Zuma’s resignation, released the note of permission it had received from the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court for the march to proceed.

Malema said opposition parties will receive a letter saying permission for the march has been granted, which will be distributed on Monday afternoon.

“We are not going to play these games they tried to play with Save SA,” Malema said.

Intimidation and no confidence
On Monday morning, the UDM filed papers at the Constitutional Court requesting that a secret ballot be used in the vote of no confidence in Zuma. The vote has been scheduled in Parliament on April 18.

Holomisa said the chief justice has not yet given direction on the matter, but he is “optimistic we are putting a strong case” because of recent acts of intimidation.

Last Friday, the Mail & Guardian reported that Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, a member of the ANC’s senior national executive committee structure, and ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu have received threats on their lives following their outspoken criticism of Zuma.

Holomisa said the acts of intimidation on Zuma dissenters both inside the party and in opposition parties and civil society may make a stronger case for a secret ballot.

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete has said a secret ballot is not in Parliament’s rules and MPs are therefore obliged to put their names next to their votes.

DA spokesperson Phumzile van Damme said the party has received positive feedback from members in the ANC who are willing to vote against Zuma.

“There have been a number of ANC members and MPs who approached our leader, Mmusi Maimane, indicating that they would be willing to support a motion of no confidence and they would speak to some of their colleagues,” Van Damme said.

Malema said that if ANC members cannot vote with opposition parties then they must request a vote of no confidence themselves. The EFF leader said the party would vote with Zuma dissenters in the ANC.

“If they can’t vote with the opposition, let them put the motion themselves,” Malema said.

Opposition parties, civil society organisations and the public have been asked to gather at Church Square in Pretoria from 9am on Wednesday morning. The march is scheduled to proceed to the Union Buildings at 12pm. 

Ra'eesa Pather