South Africa's opposition parties on Thursday asked parliament to debate a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, heaping pressure on his under-fire administration.
In a rare sign of unity among opposing lawmakers, eight parties asked the National Assembly to vote against Zuma, citing "a mounting crisis of leadership" that they said was at odds with the vision of democratic hero Nelson Mandela.
"This is the first time that this large number of opposition parties has come together to back a motion of no confidence," main opposition Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko told AFP.
But the demand -- which is almost certain to be rejected by the ANC-dominated legislature -- was dismissed by the ruling party as "silly" and a "publicity stunt".
Presenting the notice for the motion, Mazibuko told lawmakers that Zuma had overseen a weakening and politicisation of the justice system, spiralling graft, rampant joblessness and a slowing economy.
His presidency has also seen the worst police bloodshed since apartheid fell, with 34 striking miners gunned down by officers, two recent credit downgrades and a furore over a $29-million upgrade to his private home in a country where millions of people still live in shanties.
Under South Africa's Constitution, the president must resign if the National Assembly passes a majority vote for a motion of no confidence.
Zuma's African National Congress (ANC) holds just under two-thirds of the house seats, handing the party an overwhelming control on voting.
"In our parliamentary system, it is one way to topple the government assuming that you can muster sufficient votes," said Paul Graham, executive director of the Idasa think-tank.
But the proposal was unlikely to succeed, he said.
"ANC members will see it as a political judgement of the party and not merely the president and so even if it's a secret ballot, I'm pretty sure that one can expect the ANC caucus all to vote against it."
Zuma has already survived one no-confidence vote, in March 2010.
No date has been set for the latest vote, which the opposition parties would like to see take place as a secret ballot.
Despite the unlikelihood of the vote succeeding, it comes at a difficult time for the ANC leader.
An ANC electoral conference in December could see Zuma face an embarrassing leadership challenge that could ultimately oust him from the presidency.
The opposition parties are hoping that a secret ballot, if granted, will allow ANC members to also support their motion while shielded from publicly breaking ranks.
"We want to give the members of the ANC who also have no confidence in Zuma a chance to vote in favour of our motion," said Mazibuko.
In response to Thursday's move, the ANC tabled a counter-motion expressing confidence in Zuma.
Mazibuko rejected claims that the opposition move was symbolic.
"There's nothing symbolic about this, it is a real motion in terms of the constitution and the rule of the law," she said.