#ZumaImpeachment: How the motion was dropped

BY CHARL BOSCH - APRIL 6, 2016

Parliament’s motion of impeachment against President Jacob Zuma descended into complete disarray on Tuesday when opposition parties staged walkout after the African National Congress (ANC) used its majority to have the application struck off the roll by 233 votes to 143.

Proceedings to the near four-hour sitting turned heated right from the start when Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Deputy President, Floyd Shivambu, called on National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to recuse herself from presiding over the sitting, as she failed to uphold the Constitution in response to upgrades at the President’s Nkandla homestead.

Last week, the Constitution Court ruled that Zuma not only violated the country’s Constitution by rejecting the remedial actions of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla report, but that Parliament failed to hold him accountable by accepting the findings of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s report.

“You must recuse yourself as presiding officer because the Constitutional [Court] found that you violated the Constitution and disregarded the law of this Parliament. You do not deserve to be in that seat. I therefore propose that you step down and have someone else in that seat so we can have a rational and fair Parliament today,” he said.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Chief Whip John Steenhuisen then waded in to demand that Mbete hand control of the sitting over to Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, saying she had been “party to crime” by being the first respondent in the case.

“While there is nothing in rules that compels you to recuse yourself Madam Speaker, I would submit that in the interest of restoring the credibility of this Parliament, that you invoke rule 15 of the Constitutuion and ask the Deputy Speaker to preside over this debate”.

Newly elected ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu then jumped to Mbete defence by stating that the Court’s ruling had been imposed on the National Assembly and not the Speaker.

“I therefore urge members to read the judgement and also request you to rule that there is no provision for you to recuse yourself,” he said as opposition MP’s started waving for her to leave.

Tensions however spiked when Mbete opted to recognise Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota instead of EFF leader Julius Malema, resulting in the latter accusing her of deliberately ignoring him.


Video courtesy of Tribe2Tribes on YouTube

“You are not a credible person to preside over this,” Malema said while ignoring Mbete’s request from him to sit down.

“Baleka listen to me, you are not a speaker… you don’t deserve to sit where you are sitting. You have violated the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and you don’t qualify to sit where you are. We cannot discuss Zuma with you presiding, therefore recuse yourself,” he shouted.

Similar calls by Lekota, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Narend Singh and United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa also failed, with Mbete again reiterating that no rule in the Constitutuion calls for her to step down.

With objections from opposition parties continuing, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula called for a vote to determine whether Mbete should preside or not. This was swiftly denied with Mbete moments later calling for an adjourned to discuss the matter with the various Chief Whips.

The sitting eventually commenced over an hour later and threatened to again descend into chaos when Malema stood up after Mbete had called for MPs to set “an example to the people who voted for us”.

“I respect you have decided not to recuse yourself and on that basis we will be taking you to court. You are conflicted and will not be objective,” Malema said.

Insults where then hurled moments later when DA leader Mmusi Maimane took to the stand. Ignoring the jibes, he stated that the ruling party no longer represented what it once was, and that its members would more than likely vote against motion and claim it to be a victory.

“Next time you are in your constituencies, look around. People are angry. They are mobilising against the ANC like never before,” he said.

“Every time you defend your President, you send out a signal that the ANC is rotten to the core. So, go ahead. Vote to protect President Zuma today. And watch how, in this local election, the people of this country use their vote to punish you for what the ANC has become”.

Speaking directly after him, Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery stated that Madonsela’s remedial actions were not “crystal clear”, and that Zuma acted in good faith when apologised in a televised interview on Friday evening.

In a rebuttal Malema said Parliament engaged in unlawful activity and that the court has proved that the President failed to protect and uphold the Constitution. Moments later, a shouting match ensued between him and an ANC MP called for him to refer to Zuma as honourable.

Things then escalated when Malema continued to speak over his allotted time, causing an irate Tsenoli to shout for his mic to be turned off as EFF MP’s began clapping in unison followed by chants of “CIC”.

As DA Federal Chairperson James Selfe prepared to speak not long after, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi stood up to accuse International Relations and Co-operations Ministe, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane ,of sleeping, a claim she vehemently denied as the shouting between ANC and EFF MP members intensified.

Abuses continued throughout the remainder of the sitting with ANC MP Pule Mabe referring to the DA as the Desperate Alliance on a number of occasions, while Agang SA leader Andries Tlouamma was told to withdraw after calling Zuma a “traitor”.

ANC MP Mmamoloko Kubayi ruffled feathers moments later by stating that the motion was nothing more than a PR exercise, and that the “issue of impeachment does not exist in our language”.

The counting of the final votes was met with wide-scale jeering as opposition parties berated the ANC for voting against the Constitutuion, before leaving as the business of the House continued.