Doris Dlakude. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Doris Dlakude. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

ANC MPs came out strongly in defence of President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday as Parliament debated the much anticipated motion of no confidence in the embattled president.

Opening the debate for the ANC‚ deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude said the DA’s motion was part of a regime change agenda.

"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‚" said Dlakude.

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.

ANC MP Pule Mabe said: "Everything the DA does is guided by opportunism and desperation for fame. It is a frivolous motion of no confidence … [tantamount] to a coup d’état".

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the DA’s motion was essentially meant to topple the ANC.

"They want ANC members to help them fulfil that ambition … the opposition in this house are doing all they can to further divide the ANC‚ including sponsoring this motion … the only way the ANC can lose power is by way of a negative vote at the next general election ... we should not use other tactics to get rid of a governing party … that will be akin to a coup d’état … I have a duty to defend the ANC‚" said Mapisa-Nqakula.

Earlier‚ DA leader Mmusi Maimane‚ who opened the speeches‚ said history would judge the ANC harshly if members of the party "do not do the right thing and vote to remove Zuma".

"Aside from the instructions given to the ANC caucus to follow the party line‚ who within the ANC and its alliance really wants President Zuma to remain?

"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.

"Vote for your hopes‚ honourable members‚ not your fears. Do the right thing. Vote with your conscience and remove this corrupt and broken president from office."

EFF leader Julius Malema said: "We are here to remove Zuma … he is the most corrupt person. Imagine what will happen [to the ANC] in 2019 if you [ANC MPs] continue like this … we have a problem that the Cabinet was reshuffled by the Guptas … we are rising against the Guptas‚ who have ensured that our economy is in recession."

Inkatha Freedom Party 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‚" said Buthelezi.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa implored ANC MPs to vote against Zuma‚ "the chief architect of state capture".

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 are due to vote by secret ballot after the debate later in the afternoon. The outcome of the vote is expected by 5pm.

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