Parties unite to trip up JZ over Sona

Testing, testing: If opposition parties get their way, President Zuma won’t be giving the State of the Nation address (David Harrison)

Testing, testing: If opposition parties get their way, President Zuma won’t be giving the State of the Nation address (David Harrison)

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema says his party has asked National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete to convert next week’s State of the Nation address (Sona) into a debate about a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.

This comes on the same day that Mbete ruled out the possibility of having a special sitting before the address to debate such a motion (‘Orderly’ speech to go ahead).

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Thursday, Malema described Zuma as a highly compromised leader who does not have the interests of the country at heart.

“Everybody agrees now that the guy must go. There is a huge political development in the sense that he is no longer the president of the ruling party. If we love this country and respect the people of this country, you cannot without any justification say this guy must continue to give them the State of the Nation.
He has got no respect for our people,” said Malema.

He said if the ANC was serious about fighting corruption, it would ensure Zuma did not deliver the address on February 8.

“If the [new] ANC [leadership] has a new attitude and a new heart, someone [in the national executive committee] should be saying we should have a dignified State of the Nation this time around. [Demonstrate] that the change we have been speaking about starts now. We must give the nation some hope,” said Malema.

His statements come after opposition parties vowed to form a united front to ensure Zuma does not deliver the Sona, following developments such as the Constitutional Court’s impeachment ruling and the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, in which Zuma is implicated.

In a letter to Mbete, Malema threatened to disrupt Sona proceedings should Zuma be allowed to deliver the address without first facing a motion of no confidence.

“The suitability of Mr Jacob Zuma to continue in the office of the president is more of an urgent question now than a Sona to be delivered by an incumbent who is on the verge of commissions and trials.

“We therefore write to the speaker to request that she must start a process of rescheduling Parliament’s programme if Mr Zuma is still president. Failure to do so will leave us with no option but to take up the issue during Sona.”

The EFF has been joined in its efforts by the Democratic Alliance, which has also asked for Sona to be suspended until Zuma is removed, either through a motion of no confidence or a recall by the ANC.

Mbete had indicated that she would consider both requests and on Thursday announced her decision to turn them down.

“The answer is no, we are not going to have a special sitting before the joint sitting to receive the Sona address.”

The moves have galvanised United Democratic Front (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa to rally all opposition parties to ensure that Zuma does not deliver the address.

This week, Holomisa told the M&G he had gathered the support of the EFF, the DA, the Congress of the People and the African Christian Democratic Party for a meeting on Friday where they would “compare notes and reach a common position [on Zuma]” before joining Mbete for a party leaders’ meeting on Tuesday.

The meeting was due to be held this week but Holomisa believed it had been intentionally postponed to frustrate the EFF’s attempts to debate a motion of no confidence before February 8.

“Baleka called us to propose a meeting for today [Wednesday] and then, out of the blue, she postponed it,” Holomisa said. He accused her of delaying tactics.

Although ANC insiders have told the M&G that the party’s national working committee has called for Zuma to be removed before the Sona is delivered, Holomisa said he was not confident that the party would be able to achieve this because ANC leaders were still contradicting each other on the matter.

“The sooner they [the ANC] get their act together, the better for them and the country. But let’s be clear that opposition parties have been in the vanguard in this campaign for Zuma to go, and we won’t stop until he does. So, if Cyril Ramaphosa and his team are pussyfooting, then it’s their problem,” Holomisa said.

This is not the first time that opposition parties have worked together to try to secure Zuma’s removal.

Last year the UDM, supported by other opposition parties, asked the Constitutional Court to force Mbete to grant a secret ballot in a motion of no confidence against Zuma.
The secret ballot saw at least 25 ANC MPs voting in favour of the motion.

In his letter to Mbete, Malema said he believed that even more ANC MPs would vote with the opposition this time around. — Additional reporting by Matuma Letsoalo

‘Orderly’ speech to go ahead

Unless something extraordinary happens, President Jacob Zuma will deliver the State of the Nation address (Sona) next week, and security officers will be reined in to ensure there is no repeat of the chaos that has characterised the occasion over the past three years, Parliament’s presiding officers said on Thursday.

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete confirmed that there would not be any special sitting to debate a motion of no confidence against Zuma, as requested by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and that the ANC had not asked for a postponement of the address.

This follows a similar request by the Democratic Alliance amid increased speculation that Zuma would not deliver the 2018 Sona as he would be recalled by his party.

Last year’s address descended into chaos when EFF MPs were forcefully removed from the National Assembly by police and parliamentary protection services. Four armed defence force members were also present.

National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairperson Thandi Modise said they will ensure this doesn’t happen again. She said security cluster ministers have been told not to make secret plans.

“We can’t say we will not have surprises, but we have raised it very sharply that we don’t want security ministers and whoever
is above them to make any decisions without us knowing,” Modise said.

“We will not allow anything that has happened in the last three years to happen again. If it does happen, let it be brought to our attention and we will deal with it,” Modise added.

Mbete stressed that maintaining order in the National Assembly and surrounding precinct would be left up to the parliamentary protection services. But, she added, police could intervene if the address descended into chaos.

“Should a situation develop where there is enough of a threat of violence or actual violence in the House, the security forces have a responsibility legally to intervene,” she said.

The presiding officers admitted that they are anxious about disruptions to the speech and their ability to maintain order. Deputy NCOP chairperson Lechesa Tsenoli believes, however, that they should not hesitate to take strong action against people who attempt to derail the proceedings.

“We take exception, quite frankly, to threats of disruption. They should be rejected with the contempt they deserve … Any use of illegal ways of expressing your views must be dealt with appropriately,” Tsenoli said. — Govan Whittles

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