Parliament. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Parliament. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete announced on Wednesday evening that she would agree to postpone next week’s motion of no confidence debate against President Jacob Zuma.

Opposition parties in Parliament want the Constitutional Court to hear the United Democratic Movement’s (UDM’s) application for a secret ballot before the debate goes ahead.

The UDM, the DA and the EFF put pressure on Mbete, asking her to postpone the motion, while the speaker has tried to persuade the parties to withdraw the request for a motion instead. Mbete has until Thursday to submit her responding papers to the UDM’s application.

“The speaker’s decision follows the request by the DA, under whose leader the motion was tabled, for the motion to be postponed pending the conclusion of the Constitutional Court application by the UDM. The motion was scheduled on an urgent basis as per the request of DA leader Mmusi Maimane, for April 18 2017,” Parliament said in a statement on Wednesday.

The statement said postponement of the motion would be referred to the National Assembly programme committee for its consideration after the constituency recess.

Eric Mabuza, the UDM’s lawyer, said that the party was prepared to interdict Mbete into postponing the vote of no confidence. “It was the sensible thing to do. Sanity has prevailed,” Mabuza said.

He said Mbete’s office had not filed responding papers by late Wednesday.

Parliament spokesman Moloto Mothapo said the office of the speaker would comply with the deadline set by the Constitutional Court.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said Maimane would not withdraw the motion of no confidence. “This rule clearly gives the speaker the power to schedule the motion and, therefore, also the implied power to postpone and reschedule such a motion. This differs from the scheduling of other National Assembly business which would require the National Assembly programming committee to either schedule or reschedule matters.”

ANC caucus spokeswoman Nonceba Mhlauli said the caucus would leave it to the discretion of the speaker to decide on the date of the vote of no confidence.

“As caucus has stated, we don’t support the call for a secret ballot. That really is between said political party and Parliament. We would not get involved in support or against the case itself.

“Even in terms of a postponement, it is between them,” said Mhlauli.

She said the caucus maintained that, on the day of the vote of no confidence motion, the ANC would reject a vote of no confidence in Zuma. 

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