JZ sets off a new cracker
President Jacob Zuma may be on a collision course with the ANC’s parliamentary caucus after publicly speaking out about attempts to drive a wedge between his executive and the governing party’s caucus.
Delivering his opening address at the ongoing ANC policy conference in Johannesburg, Zuma spoke of the “politics of spectacle, grandstanding and manipulation in Parliament” and warned that the ANC should be wary of them.
“We have to ask ourselves whether we have honed the skills to manage this and the growing attempt to draw a wedge between the executive and the parliamentary caucus of the governing party,” he added.
“Another form of resistance takes the form of traditional lobbying where vested interests seek to derail transformational policies through different forms of persuasion,” said Zuma.
City Press spoke to three ANC MPs; two of whom interpreted Zuma’s words as a rebuke to the caucus which has been robust and tough on the executive in recent months.
One MP wished the president had elaborated on the matter, saying it was now unclear whether he had a problem with the robust ANC in Parliament or whether he was speaking about the opposition parties.
An ANC MP, who is also a member of the party’s national executive committee (NEC), said there was a view in the executive (state) that, in holding people to account, the caucus goes beyond what it is supposed to do.
“He [Zuma] mentioned once in an NEC meeting ... and was a bit harsh in that meeting because he said ‘we are playing an oppositionist role’,” said the MP. “There are also ministers that are complaining about being held to account, but the caucus can’t be a lapdog,” added the MP who did not want to be named.
The MP added that some members of the executive did not like the parliamentary inquiry into the SABC and were not happy about the Eskom inquiry either. The latter is scheduled to start when Parliament reconvenes next month.
It is also possible, however, that Zuma was talking about the opposition parties who have openly admitted to lobbying ANC MPs in their many attempts to remove Zuma from office.
The DA, United Democratic Movement and Economic Freedom Fighters MPs have previously said their fight for a secret vote in the motion of no confidence against Zuma was to protect ANC MPs who were willing to vote out their president but were scared to do so in an open vote.
Following their ridiculous defence of the Nkandla saga, where they went as far as absolving Zuma of any wrongdoing; ANC MPs appear to have found their voices as Cabinet ministers, party deployees to departments and others face gruelling questions when they appear before parliamentary committees.
However, much of the robustness appears to intersect with ANC factional wars in the build-up to the party’s national elective conference in December.
Only this week, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane was put in her place by ANC MP Lulu Johnson when she sought to dictate how the portfolio committee overseeing her department should hold them to account. Twice, a firm but calm Johnson reminded her that she accounts to Parliament and not the other way round.
Mokonyane was leading her team to account for the fourth quarterly report of the department when she said: “I want to hasten and say in your correspondence, you have also indicated almost 23 additional items that have got nothing to do with the fourth quarterly report, but I want to remind MPs, all those items are reflected in the annual performance plan and are subject to an audit process ...”
Johnson responded: “You shall remember minister that members (MPs) raise any issue as and when they want to raise it. Whether I have mentioned it to you or not; in one way or another you should expect members to raise any issue.
“We are operating in that environment.” Mokonyane, reportedly a Zuma supporter, continued with her protestations, but Johnson, who has previously been reported to have called for Zuma to step down, was not moved.
TALK TO US The questions mount: Can we expect more clashes between Zuma’s executive and the parliamentary ANC? Is Zuma fighting the opposition for his political survival? Is he deliberately obfuscating issues?
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ON THEIR BEST BEHAVIOUR Struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela joins hands with President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, in a show of unity at the opening of the party’s National Policy Conference on Friday