CAPE TOWN – AGANG Â SA deputy president Andries Tlouamma on Tuesday blindsided the National Assembly by withdrawing his motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.
He did so in protest at Speaker Baleka Mbete’s refusal to recuse herself from presiding over the debate.
“I will withdraw it,” Tlouamma said after an eight-minute speech that barely mentioned Zuma, focusing more on Mbete and concluding with another call for her to cede her place to another presiding officer.
Mbete’s tenure was, he said, marking the death of 20 years of lively debate in the post-apartheid Parliament.
She responded: “Honourable Tlouamma, I am presiding and I have no intention of withdrawing.”
Other opposition parties, many who are also highly critical of Mbete but have long sought a no confidence vote in the president, reacted with dismay that the motion, brought a fortnight after his tumultuous state-of-the-nation address, had been aborted.
Economic Freedom Fighters Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu said: “We must be serious. We don’t want to play the silly games of Agang. They must maybe dissolve and go and do something else and stop wasting our time.”
His Democratic Alliance counterpart John Steenhuisen said the party had called a three-line whip and devoted considerable time in preparing for the debate.
He said he agreed with ANC Chief Whip Stone Sizani’s interpretation of parliamentary rule 102, that the debate had to fall away after Tlouamma’s shock move. He however accused him of doing the ranks of the opposition a disservice.
“When this sort of thing happens it undermines our ability to hold the executive to account and for us to be taken seriously by them. But so be it, the motion has fallen away and we will be back another day.”
The Freedom Front Plus’s Pieter Groenewald put it more strongly, saying Agang, which holds only two seats, had been irresponsible and should remember that the National Assembly “is not a sand pit”.
Mbete admonished Tlouamma when, after leaving the podium, he sought to raise a point of order.
Telling him to take his seat, she said: “I don’t see how you think you can play games with the House.”
The motion of the no confidence in the president had a long and winding run-up. It was tabled in November, but last week Agang SA sought an urgent interdict from the Western Cape High Court to prevent the debate from happening on Tuesday.
The party wanted MPs to vote on the motion by way of a secret ballot, and wanted the court to rule on whether Mbete was fit to preside over the matter. The court dismissed the application.
The speaker’s list had included Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. -Sapa