Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

On Tuesday, ANC and opposition party speakers in the National Assembly made impassioned pleas for the votes of ANC MPs, during the debate on the vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.

ANC speakers tried to close ranks against what they portrayed as an attack on the ruling party.

They described the motion proposed by DA leader Mmusi Maimane as an attempted coup d’état, a bid to sow division in the ruling party and a push for regime change.

Maimane and EFF leader Julius Malema were at pains to stress that the motion was not against the ruling party but against the corrupt president who was leading the country to ruin.

In appealing for ANC MPs to do the right thing and vote for the motion, Maimane recalled the statements made by ANC MPs against corruption, which called for Zuma to be removed. These included former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, former tourism minister Derek Hanekom, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande and ANC MP Makhosi Khoza, as well as ANC stalwarts such as former president Thabo Mbeki.

“Among ANC stalwarts, the calls for him to step down have become a deafening chorus, with former presidents leading this chorus. Former president Kgalema Motlanthe is on record stating that if he were an MP he would support the motion to remove President Zuma,” said Maimane. 

He also invoked former president Nelson Mandela in appealing to ANC MPs to do the right thing, by voting for their hopes and not their fears.

Malema emphasised that the opposition would never call for the removal of a leader who respected his oath of office, and appealed to ANC MPs to “protect your future” by voting Zuma out of office. If not, the party would be judged in the 2019 general election.

COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota highlighted his historic links with the ANC, dwelling on his time on Robben Island with ANC stalwarts who upheld values of truth and honesty.

ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude, however, said the “insurrectionist” opposition was intent on regime change and on sowing the seeds of chaos in the ruling party. She said the ANC had acknowledged its mistakes and had agreed, together with Zuma, that a judicial commission of inquiry should be held into state capture.

ANC MP Pule Mabe said ANC MPs “will never vote to remove the ANC from power”. Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula also argued that the opposition wanted ANC MPs to help them topple the ANC.

Despite repeated objections by EFF MPs, Mapisa-Nqakula insisted the aim of the motion was the removal of the ANC, by deepening its problems and promoting division.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the “reactionary” motion was a ploy to destabilise and subvert the democratic order. It was an attempt at regime change and a coup d’etat, targeting not the president but the system its entirety.

Opening the debate for the ANC, Dlakude said: “This motion is their [the opposition’s] publicly stated intention of regime change … our individual and collective integrity must propel us to rise above political expediency. We know and trust our members not to betray their movement and the imperatives of our democracy.” She described the opposition as “hypocritical and devoid of integrity”. The DA disciplined its public representatives for voting with their conscience, yet it wanted ANC members to defy the governing party’s line, said Dlakude.

Mabe said: “Everything the DA does is guided by opportunism and desperation for fame. It is frivolous motion of no confidence … [tantamount] to a coup d’état.” IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said the motion was not against the ANC but against corruption. “Today, we must vote with our conscience or we must face the righteous anger of millions of South Africans. They won’t keep silent. They will express themselves, not only through marches and protests but through the ballot box.” UDM leader Bantu Holomisa implored ANC MPs to vote against Zuma, “the chief architect of state capture”.


Among ANC stalwarts, the calls for him to step down have become a deafening chorus, with former presidents leading this chorus

Seven previous motions of no confidence brought by the opposition were successfully defended by the ANC, which enjoys a majority in Parliament, with 249 of the 400 National Assembly seats.

The latest motion was tabled by the DA earlier in 2017 following Zuma’s decision to fire then finance minister Pravin Gordhan and then deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas‚ which sent the rand and markets into a tailspin.

Zuma, dogged by scandals and declining popularity, has faced growing calls within and outside the ANC to step down.

But ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said that while the party was aware of its challenges under Zuma, it would not vote with the opposition to collapse the government. Voting in support of the motion would further fracture and weaken the ANC, Mthembu argued.

The ANC’s entire top six leaders, including Zuma and secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, descended on Parliament ahead of the debate and met the party caucus in a last-minute attempt to make sure members voted to quash the motion.

Some defiant MPs, including former Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele and Makhosi Khoza, have indicated they would support the motion. Others, including Gordhan and former tourism minister Derek Hanekom have said they supported a “conscience vote”.

MPs began voting by secret ballot after the debate.

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane spoke to ANC supporters outside Parliament after the debate, urging them not to be persuaded by opposition MPs who said Zuma had violated his oath of office and the Constitution.

“Money cannot buy the revolution. Money cannot buy our conviction. We know that we can trust you to defend out president because your poverty is our poverty. Your struggle is our struggle. We will not allow undemocratic regime change in SA. Let them wait for an opportunity in 2019 to defeat us, but Zuma will stay until then,” Mokonyane told the applauding crowd.

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