Opposition parties: We’re willing to listen to anyone but Zuma at Sona

While Parliament has scheduled a new debate on a motion of no confidence in Jacob Zuma for 22 February, the EFF is still insisting it take place before Sona.

Leaders of various opposition parties hold a briefing outside Parliament on the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, which Baleka Mbete has decided will be held by secret ballot. Picture: Moeketsi Moticoe

JOHANNESBURG - Opposition parties say they're willing to listen to anyone but President Jacob Zuma deliver next week's State of the Nation Address (Sona).

They've been reacting to parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete's decision not to allow a motion of no confidence debate before the address.

She's announced the debate will go ahead on 22 February.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa says opposition parties have realised the African National Congress is not serious about removing Zuma from office.

Opposition parties say they will write to Mbete to express their concern over her decision to allow Sona to go ahead next week.

Holomisa read out a statement agreed to by six parties.

“It was agreed that a formal letter be addressed to the presiding officer of Parliament expressing our concerns in allowing the proposed Sona to go ahead on 8 February 2018."

While Parliament has scheduled a new debate on a motion of no confidence in President Zuma for later this month, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is still insisting it take place before the address.

On Thursday, Mbete rejected the party's request for a special sitting of Parliament before next week's Sona.

The speaker of Parliament now says she decided to schedule the EFF’s request for the motion of no confidence on 22 February.

Mbete says she took into account the program of the National Assembly, including the debate on the Sona, as well as the tabling of the national budget on 21 February.

But the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu says that’s not good enough.

“But we still insist that we think Parliament must be given an opportunity to assess whether Jacob Zuma is still suitable to be president of South Africa even before he gives the State of the Nation Address.”

He says there is no need for Zuma to address the nation next Thursday if a motion of no confidence in him will be debated a few days later.

The party believes Zuma will not survive such a motion this time around.

'ZUMA ADDRESS WILL DAMAGE PARLY CREDIBILITY'

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it will continue to put pressure on Mbete to move the address.

The DA says if Zuma addresses the nation, this will be a farce and is damaging to the credibility of Parliament.

Mbete, meanwhile, says it's not within her powers to change the date.

The DA's chief whip John Steenhuisen says he will raise the issue at another meeting with the Mbete next week.

“We believe that what should rather happen for the sake of both Parliament, certainty and for the people of South Africa that we should rather postpone Sona until such a time as we have certainty about who the president of SA is going to be.”