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The country and the Constitution are the main points of focus, not political parties and their leaders, that’s what the leader of the opposition Mr Mmusi Maimane told Members of the National Assembly (NA) when he delivered his speech during the debate on the motion of no confidence in the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma, at Parliament today.

Mr Maimane said the 13 political parties that are in the NA have put aside their tiny political doctrines that divide them and allowed the bigger spirit of patriotism to guide them at this time in the history of the 23 years of constitutional democracy in South Africa. He said there was no time in that history where stakes were as high as they are today. “We have come together to do a just and honourable thing of defending our country and its Constitution,” said Mr Maimane.

Mr said South Africa has entered into a chapter he referred to as “disastrous” where according to him, the economy is in recession and the country in junk status, people turning to crime in order to survive. He said today is a day where NA MPs are coming together to reclaim the country back from the hands of thieves. He appealed to all the NA MPs, including those of the ruling majority party, to remember their oath of office. “Let us all remember our words,” he added.

Speaking after Mr Maimane against the motion of no confidence, the Deputy Chief Whip of the ruling party (African National Congress) Ms Doris Dlakude, emphasised the right of the President to reshuffle the Cabinet or to make changes to it at any time when he or she realises the need to do so.

Arguing against the reason of firing the former Minister of Finance and his Deputy Mr Pravin Gordan and Mr Mcebisi Jonas which Mr Maimane based his motion of no confidence speech on, Ms Dlakude said being a minister in government is not like being a chief in a traditional setting, as chiefs are born and ministers are appointed by the President. She said ministers serve in Cabinet by being appointed by the President.

Also speaking during the debate, the Minister of Arts and Culture Mr Nathi Mthethwa dismissed the basis of the argument that Mr Zuma’s firing of the former Minister of Finance and his deputy led to economic recession. He said recession began before the removal of Mr Gordan and his deputy. He said technical recession had started well before the Cabinet reshuffle. According to Mr Mthethwa, the technical recession started in the first quarter of 2017.

NA veteran MP, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, attributed the reasons for the vote of no confidence to a poisonous seed of corruption he said was sown long before democracy, which according to him, its roots silently crept over the threshold along with a liberated nation. He said that seed was nourished with every secret deal, irregular tender and dishonest word “until we reached the point that the unthinkable became possible”.

He said: “the sitting President lied to Parliament, lied to the people, trampled the Constitution and also sold our country to the highest bidder”, stressed Prince Buthelezi. He said the NA MPs, as custodians of the nation’s well-being, must act to save South Africa. “This motion of no confidence is not against the ANC. It is against corruption. It is against state capture. It is against one man,” said Prince Buthelezi.

The debate on the motion of no confidence, which was preceded by the communication of the decision of conducting it through a secret ballot, is among the highlights of the major acts of democracy that brand Parliament of the Republic as a symbol and a beacon of hope for the future of constitutional democracy in South Africa. The opposition parties appreciated Ms Baleka Mbete for her decision to allow for the secret ballot option.

The yes side of the debate got 177 votes, abstentions 9 and the no side got 198 votes.

By Mava Lukani

8 August 2017