Op­po­si­tion walks out

Say com­mit­tee on Nkandla is de­signed to shield Zuma

Weekend Witness - - News -

PAR­LIA­MENT — Op­po­si­tion par­ties yes­ter­day withdr ew fr om the p ar­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on Nkandla, say­ing they would not le­git­imise a process they claimed w as de signed t o shield Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma from li­a­bil­ity for abuse of s tate funds.

“The op­po­si­tion will not le­git­imise this bla­tant un­der­min­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion f or the pr otec­tion of one man,” the p arties said.

The ANC’s 6­5 majority on the com­mit­tee means how­ever that it still has a quorum and the party said it would pro­ceed with its work with­out the op­po­si­tion ne xt Tues­day.

They walked out after the rul­ing party re­fused to agree to call Zuma to an­swer ques­tions and t o en­force Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela’s di­rec­tive that he re­pay a por­tion of R246 mil­lion spent on re­fur­bish­ing his pri­vate home at Nk andla.

The rul­ing p arty maint ained that there was no need t o call witne sses, that Zuma would not have been aware of wrong­do­ing by of­fi­cials, and that it had the right to rec­om­mend dif­fer­ent cor­rec­tive ac­tion.

Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers leader Julius Malema r aised the thr eat that the op­po­si­tion w ould withdr aw on Thurs­day night aft er nine hour s of heated de­bate failed to re­solve a dead­lock on the se is sues.

When the com­mit­tee con­vened yes­ter­day morn­ing, se­nior ANC MP Mathole M ot­shekga sought t o a vert a walk­out by stalling a vote and call­ing for one mor e s tab at c on­sen­sus.

But he then ex­as­per­ated the op­po­si­tion by ar­gu­ing that though the Con­sti­tu­tion of­fered a high de­gree of pro­tec­tion to Madon­sela’s of­fice, it did not ap­ply t o the r eports she pr oduced.

Free­dom Front Plus MP Corné Mul­der termed it “a dir ect at tack on the per­son of the pub­lic pr otec­tor” who has been at log­ger­heads with Zuma since she chas­tised him last month for fail­ing to r espond dir ectly t o her r eport.

EFF MP Go­drich Gardee added that it meant the ANC was poised to re­vise the doc­u­ment that f ound Zuma had de­rived un­due ben­e­fit fr om the project, and c oun­tered: “We ar e not the r el­e­vant authorit y, it can onl y be done b y a c ourt of la w”.

Mot­shekga also r eit­er­ated that Zuma was right to re­spond to Madon­sela that he was not obliged to rub­ber­stamp her find­ings, and re­jected the op­po­si­tion’s call to seek an in­de­pen­dent le­gal opin­ion. H e said bet ween them, the com­mit­tee mem­bers counted many le­gal qual­i­fi­ca­tions, in­clud­ing his o wn doc­tor­ate in the field.

Gardee protested: “There is no sane le­gal mind that will come and give the in­ter­pre­ta­tion gi ven by the pr es­i­dent of the pow­ers of the pub­lic pr otec­tor, which is w hat y ou ar e do­ing as f oot sol­diers.”

After t wo­and­a­half hour s in this vein, Demo­cratic Al­lianc e par­lia­men­tary leader Mmusi Maimane con­cluded: “We ha ve r eached an imp asse … What is clear to me, what is very ap­par­ent, is that the ANC is not g oing t o agree to any­thing. They jus t want us to run a rit­ual.

“We can­not pro­ceed on this le vel,” he said be­fore lead­ing the DA, EFF, FF Plus, Inkatha Free­dom Party and African Christian Demo­cratic Party out of the meet­ing .

Af­ter­wards, ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude ac­cused the op­po­si­tion of act­ing in b ad faith and said it w as clear the par­ties never meant to par­tic­i­pate mean­ing­full y “t o as sist P ar­lia­ment to ar­rive at sound r eso­lu­tions”.

The op­po­si­tion said at a joint me­dia brief­ing the mo­ment was a wa­ter­shed and ac­cused the ANC of sub­vert­ing the role of P ar­lia­ment.

Malema r ecalled ANC secr etary­gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe’s com­ments to the me­dia ear­lier this week, that Par­lia­ment must pro­tect Zuma and Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa from in­sult and at tack. He said the w alkout was “a se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal s tep” and raised the spectr e of the op­po­si­tion leav­ing Par­lia­ment en­tirely if the ANC did not al­low the leg­is­la­ture to per­form proper o ver­sight.

“You run a risk of peo­ple with­draw­ing c om­pletely fr om P ar­lia­ment be­cause there is no mean­ing­ful role they would pla y in P ar­lia­ment.

“I don’t think the ANC will pride it­self f or t aking p art in a P ar­lia­ment that has no op­po­si­tion pres­ence. Ac­tu­ally they might be f orced t o c ol­lapse and go to elec­tions, but there is no mo­tion about it on the t able no w.”

The DA said the par­ties would now fo­cus on set­tling the de­bate around the pow­ers of the pub­lic pr otec­tor, and if nec­es­sary go to court to hold Zuma to ac­count for the Nk andla con­tro­versy.

DA f ed­eral e xec­u­tive chair­per son James Selfe said the upc om­ing Western Cape High Court rul­ing on the case of con­tested SABC chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng would prove piv­otal. In that case, the DA sought an ur­gent in­ter­dict f or­c­ing the S ABC to sus­pend M ot­soe­neng, w ho w as ap­pointed t o the pos t per­ma­nentl y de ­ spite M adon­sela’s find­ing that the pub­lic broad­caster should re­place him within 90 da ys.

“The is sues in la w ar e ab­so­lut ely iden­ti­cal,” he said, adding that a rul­ing was e xpected shortl y.

Selfe said if the DA did not win that case, it w ould take the mat ter all the way t o the C on­sti­tu­tional C ourt t o seek clar­ity on the sta­tus of the of­fice of the pub­lic pr otec­tor. — S apa. JO­HAN­NES­BURG — The En­ergy Depart­ment y es­ter­day de­clined t o c om­ment on a r eport that Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma took con­trol of a R1tril­lion nu­clear deal, ne­go­ti­ated di­rectly with Rus­sian pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, and in­structed Ener gy Minis ter Tina J oe­mat­Pet­ters­son t o sign it.

“We can’t speak on that. It is un­fair that you ask the dep art­ment for com­ment,” spokesper­son Jo­hannes Mokobane said. “The pres­i­dency must speak on that p ar­tic­u­lar mat ter.”

Pres­i­dency spok es­per­son M ac M aharaj could not im­me­di­ately be reached for c om­ment.

Yes­ter­day, the Mail & Guar dian quoted an ANC source say­ing that Zuma took con­trol of the deal, ironed out the de­tails with Putin on the side­line s of the Brics (Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia, China and SA) sum­mit in B razil in J uly, and fi­nalised it in M oscow las t month.

Sources t old the ne ws­pa­per Zuma sub­se­quently ins tructed J oe­mat­Pet­ters­son to sign the deal on the side­lines of the Int er­na­tional A tomic Ener gy Agency c on­fer­ence in V ienna.

It r eported that Zuma did not t ake the ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee into his c on­fi­dence on the mat ter, and only gave de­tails to his most trusted cab­i­net minis ters and MP s.

This w eek, it w as an­nounc ed that Rus­sia had clinched a deal to build nu­clear re­ac­tors in South Africa. Some de­tails of the co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment — to suppl y as man y as eight nu­clear plants — were an­nounced in joint state­ments by the Ener gy Depart­ment and Rus­sia’s at omic ener gy c or­po­ra­tion, Rosatom. — S apa.

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