Voting in favour of the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma would be like “throwing a nuclear bomb at the country”, ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu said on Friday.
“The removal of the president will have disastrous consequences that can only have a negative impact on the people of South Africa,” he told reporters at Parliament.
It would result in the entire Cabinet having to resign, and a collapse in government. There would be deep and long-lasting ramifications, political instability, and economic uncertainty.
Removing Zuma and the ANC from power would only benefit the opposition and set the precedent that they could use Parliament to remove a democratically-elected government, he said.
It was “simply not in the best interests of the country”.
The DA’s motion to remove Zuma is scheduled for Tuesday.
Mthembu was resolute that ANC MPs were united. They could not remove their own president at the behest of their nemesis, the opposition.
“We must never allow our current irritations to blind us to act in a manner that destroys everything we have built over the past 23 years as a young democracy.
‘I don’t know where Hanekom got his figures’
Mthembu was asked how removing a president could be equated to removing the government.
“The DA have said removing the president is the first step to removing the ANC government. They have made no bones about that,” he replied.
He said he could not respond to ANC MP Derek Hanekom’s comments on Thursday that more than 50% of ANC MPs were unhappy with what was happening in the country and were worried about the party’s leadership.
“I do not know where he is getting those figures from. What I do know, as head and leader of the ANC caucus, is they will not support the opposition.”
MPs had raised legitimate concerns during caucus meetings, but had never expressed the desire to support an opposition-led motion, he said.
He accused the DA and EFF of being hypocritical, for taking measures against councilors for going against the party line, in the Cape Town metro and Mogale City respectively.
The ANC has made moves in Parliament to address the decline in confidence in the party and government, he said. He mentioned the SABC inquiry, probes into Eskom, and portfolio committee inquiries into state capture.
He repeated the call for a judicial commission of inquiry into the #GuptaLeaks “by yesterday”. Concerns about what had emerged in these emails were valid, but still unproven.
‘MPs in Parliament on party ticket’
Mthembu rejected media reports that the opposition had lobbied 60 ANC MPs to vote with the opposition.
“Who from the ANC would support removing own government? Nobody in his right mind would do so.”
The party’s constitution was clear on what would happen if an MP voted against the party in an open ballot.
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete still had to announce if the vote would be secret or open. He said they were confident that the motion would be defeated, regardless of what Mbete decided.
Mthembu told News24 afterwards that a secret ballot was uncharted territory. He did not say how the party would determine how its MPs had voted should the vote be secret.
“ANC MPs have no right to remove the president of the organization that has deployed them,” Mthembu said.
He disagreed with the argument that voting with one’s conscience meant ANC MPs had to vote with the opposition to support the motion.
The Constitutional Court, in its ruling on the secret ballot on June 22, did not direct any MP on how to vote, only that they do so in accordance with their conscience and their oath, he said.