Cape Town – The EFF has warned that there will be no State of the Nation Address (SONA) unless President Jacob Zuma leaves office, or a motion of no confidence is held before it.
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete announced on Tuesday that the unprecedented step to postpone Thursday's SONA until further notice was made following numerous "threats" to the event.
The EFF was one of the parties threatening to "raise their issues" in an urgent motion of no confidence against Zuma on the night.
EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee, while happy with the postponement, was adamant that no SONA would go ahead while Zuma was still head of state.
"There is not going to be any SONA until there is a motion of no confidence if Mr Zuma still remains in office and has not tendered his resignation letter," Gardee said in the parliamentary precinct, following Mbete's announcement.
"As long as Mr Zuma remains in office and hasn't tendered his resignation, there will never be any State of the Nation Address."
Pressure from the public and opposition parties
Gardee said the Speaker's decision was thanks to massive pressure from the public and opposition parties.
"That is the victory of the people of South Africa. We have marched for the removal of Zuma for almost two years and we see this decision as a victory of the voters," he said.
"We reiterate our call for the motion of no confidence to take place before SONA. We know that even if the ANC NEC (national executive committee) were to recall him, Zuma will not step down," said EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
"In his heart of hearts, he wishes that chaos erupts should he be forced to step down. Knowing that his destination is prison, Zuma wants to go down with chaos. He must be forced down, and demonstrated to, that there will not be any chaos.
"Zuma will end up in prison not because anyone hates him, but because he has been working hard, of his own volition, to end up in jail," he said.
'Zuma chapter is coming to an end'
DA leader Mmusi Maimane, one of several opposition leaders who asked for a postponement, welcomed the presiding officers' decision.
"We cannot waste money, time, nor another iota of our dwindling credibility on the international stage by allowing Jacob Zuma to deliver the State of the Nation Address," said Maimane in a statement.
"The ANC is in complete turmoil and being held to ransom by Jacob Zuma. At a price tag of over R11m in taxpayers' money, SONA cannot be reduced to a public relations exercise for a man on the precipice of impeachment and possible jail time."
He said the DA would be writing to Mbete to ensure that its impeachment motion, tabled last year, is urgently placed back on the order paper and the rules governing the impeachment process are finalised this week.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen meanwhile said the party had been lobbying for this decision for a week and a half.
"I think the institutional integrity of Parliament has been rescued by this decision," he said.
"Now comes the constitutional processes to make sure we have a president in place and we don't interrupt the budget cycle on February 21, and assure the markets that all is right in South Africa."
Steenhuisen said Parliament would be hard-pressed to delay SONA by more than another week.
"We could have an acting president sooner rather than later, and we will have 30 days thereafter [to elect a new permanent president].
"I think Mr Zuma delivering the SONA when everybody knows he is on his way out would make a mockery and a farce of what it should be.
President Jacob #Zuma leaving Tuynhuys for possibly the last time as president. He waves to the media gathered outside the gates, and doesn't answer any questions. #SONA2018 #SONA @TeamNews24 pic.twitter.com/K22yTw65Vi— Paul Herman (@PaulHermanCPT) February 6, 2018
'Next 48 hours crucial'
In his opinion, Zuma would be gone before the February 22.
"I think South Africa wants to close the chapter on the Zuma years and write a new future. I think we are in the end game of the Zuma presidency and the next 48 hours will be crucial.
If Zuma chose to dig in, it would be a different matter. "But I think the spectre of a motion of no confidence or an impeachment motion is looming over him.
"I think the message is, 'go now, or go when it is not going to be pleasant'."
Zuma will stand to lose all his presidential benefits if he is impeached.
'It would not have been helpful'
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the ruling party also welcomed the decision.
"It is in the best interest of Parliament and in the best interest of the country," Mthembu said.
"It would not have been helpful [for SONA to proceed]," he said.
Mthembu was very coy on what lay ahead for the ruling party.
He said that the next step would be for the ANC's NEC to decide the fate of the party's president, and that a new date for SONA was up to the presiding officers.
"I don't have the authority. Thank you, next question," he said.
In a brief statement, Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said: "We would like to reassure South Africans that the work of government will not be negatively impacted upon by the latest developments".
First time in post-1994 SA
IFP chief whip Narend Singh said the presiding officers of Parliament did a great job in convincing Zuma that SONA needed to be postponed.
Singh said the writing was on the wall for Zuma.
"If nothing changes then there will be no SONA. I can't see them taking any other decision after this postponement.
"It's the first time in the history of democratic South Africa that SONA has been postponed for the reasons that were given.
"We don't want Parliament to descend into the kind of chaos that it has, and all in all we expect this to be a very good 2018."
The chief whips' forum would meet on Wednesday to take the process from Parliament's side forward.
"I think we will be seeing a new president in just a matter of time," Singh added.
NFP MP Moses Khubisa also welcomed the decision.
"It is proper that it is postponed," he said.
FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said he didn't object to the postponement, but it was problematic that it was only announced so late ahead of the event.
He said it seemed that the letters opposition members wrote to the presiding officers calling for a postponement were now being used by the ANC as a smokescreen to hide its incapability to resolve its internal issues.
The ACDP also welcomed the decision.
"The second challenge we face as the opposition, is to ensure that the current state president, Mr Jacob Zuma, does not deliver the State of the Nation Address. We believe any leader in the ANC, particularly the deputy president, qualifies to do so," said ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe in a tweet.