THE POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK
Responding to the debate on his budget in the National Assembly on Thursday 5 May 2016 President Zuma said the legislature had become a national embarrassment and demanded the Speaker bring it to order
He carried on by saying that as “I go around Africa and people ask me very embarrassing questions about this Parliament. I thought you should know this, some are complaining particularly in this region that in the manner in which we behave in Parliament, we are changing the perceptions they have heard about us, that we are a leading example of the constitutional democracy.”
While the shenanigans in Parliament have turned the proceedings into a circus Jacob Zuma is the last person to be chastising Parliament for embarrassing the country. In no other constitutional democracy would a president remain in office after the highest court in the land had found that he had failed to “uphold, defend and respect” the Constitution. In any other democracy the President would have resigned immediately but Jacob Zuma stays on.
He further chooses to treat the ruling of the Constitutional Court with disdain. Take for example his reprimand of certain Cabinet Ministers as ordered by the Court. Zuma has probably complied with the court ruling in strict legal terms but morally his reprimand was a joke, he sent them the following:
“The Constitutional Court has affirmed the direction by the public protector, amongst others, that I am required to reprimand the ministers involved in the Nkandla project, for what the public protector termed ‘the appalling manner in which the Nkandla project was handled and state funds were abused’,” the letters, signed by Zuma, read.
“Pursuant to the latter I hereby deliver the reprimand required.”
Seriously this is reprimand for spending R246 million on security upgrades on a private homestead?
Presumably, considering the fact that he approved all the non security upgrades to Nkandla it would be difficult to reprimand them for doing their job.
Does Zuma honestly believe that his own behaviour in parliament is exemplary?
South Africa and the world have not forgotten how he sat in Parliament and laughed on 10 February 2015 while the EFF were thrown out for insisting that Zuma answer the question of when he was going to “pay back the money”.
In the debate on 11 February Mmusi Maimane had this to say “You laughed. You laughed while the people of South Africa cried for their beloved country. You laughed while trampling Madiba’s legacy – in the very week that we celebrated 25 years since his release. Honourable President, we will never forgive you for what you have done.”
How can the President blame the opposition MP for their behaviour when he himself cannot behave like a person of honour? Who can forget President Jacob Zuma taking a stab at opposition parties for obsessing “for a year about one person’s house” during his response to the presidency budget vote debate on Wednesday 27 May 2015. “Some people could not pronounce Nkandla before, they have now learnt. N-khandla, they say,” he joked, repeating it four times while laughing. Heh heh eh heeeh……
Who can forget the last President’s question time of 2015 on 19 November when Zuma said he has no control over his laughter.
“I don’t know how to stop my laughter. Is it hurting? No. Thank you very much. If I can laugh, because I will always laugh.”
This at a session of the National Assembly when MP’s and the voters were waiting for answers about serious issues yet, Zuma managed to avoid dealing with the most controversial questions of 2015, and resorting – in evident desperation to break into fits of laughter. There Zuma was, laughing about the worst drought in the history of democratic South Africa,
Does Zuma seriously believe that his answer to a question on drought relief that “This difficult period “requires the cooperation of all in the country. “We call,” and he broke into laughter, “on all to save water and adhere to water restrictions” enhance the image of our constitutional democracy?
The opposition parties warned that it was unlawful and against the constitution to appoint the Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko, a man whose career depends on Zuma’s goodwill, to produce a report that President Zuma should not pay back a cent for these “essential security upgrades” which included a swimming pool, an amphitheatre, a chicken run and a visitors’ centre Zuma went ahead and did it.
Surely Zuma cannot believe that the slapstick video ending with a ridiculously dramatic version of O Solo Mio of how the hapless municipal fire department did not have the equipment or capacity to put out a fire at Nkandla enhanced our constitutional democracy?
The opposition parties further warned Parliament that adopting the report by the Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko that reviewed the findings and remedial actions of the Public Protector on Nkandla, was unlawful and unconstitutional but the ANC majority, under the leadership of Speaker Mbete Baleka went ahead and adopted it.
This was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court on 31 March 2016.
President Zuma must surely realise that on 9 December 2015 when he fired Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister without consulting his cabinet or the captains of business and industry and replaced him with the unknown backbencher Des van Rooyen and cost the country in excess of R500 billion. The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) lost in excess of R100 billion said Daniel Matlia, CEO of the organisation, this included R95 billion belonging to the Government Employees Pension Fund.
The PIC is a registered financial services provider, is wholly owned by the South African Government, with the Minister of Finance as shareholder representative. They invest funds on behalf of public sector entities, based on investment mandates set by each of these clients and approved by the Financial Services Board (FSB). Therefore Zuma lost R122 billion from the very people responsible for the country’s public service.
Apart from the financial chaos South Africa had three Ministers of Finance in four days!
No! This is not how a President should behave in a constitutional democracy.
In a constitutional democracy the Head of Government should not mislead or lie to parliament or the country but it would appear that President Zuma seems to think that this type of behaviour helps to promote our constitutional democracy. Consider this:
Wednesday 9 December 2015:
President Zuma announces that “he (Nhlanhla Nene) was being removed ahead of his appointment to a new strategic position”
Friday 11 December 2015:
President Zuma responds to the furore about Nene’s dismissal with this “The urgency of the changes in the leadership of the National Treasury was occasioned by the need to send nominations to Shanghai, of the head of the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank/BRICS Bank, to be based in Johannesburg. Mr Nene is our candidate for this position.”
Thursday 4 February 2016:
Nhlanhla Nene tells the Financial Mail that he has still not received a formal offer to join the Brics bank, despite President Jacob Zuma indicating otherwise.
Sunday 13 March 2016:
New Development Bank vice-president and chief financial officer Leslie Maasdorp has confirmed that Mr Nene was a formal nominee of the South African government to head the Africa regional centre. Mr Maasdorp said that the bank’s recruitment was “an internal confidential process, we are not in a position to disclose names of other candidates for the role”.
The job has been advertised and there was no guarantee that Nene would be appointed.
Tuesday 12 April 2016:
Answering questions in the National Assembly Zuma states “I have publicly stated on several occasions that South Africa nominated Mr. Nhlanhla Nene for the position of head of the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank, also known as the BRICS Bank. Processes to make an appointment to that position are under way under the aegis of the New Development Bank in Shanghai, China.”
Tuesday 12 April 2016:
On Tuesday, the same day the president provided his replies, former minister Nene in an interview said that since his strategic deployment had not materialised he had given up gardening and had accepted a job in the private sector. He did not reveal any further details of the job.
Monday 18 April 2016:
Allan Gray announces that former minister Nhlanhla Nene has been appointed a non-executive director at the privately-owned investment management firm,
Thursday 21 April 2016:
Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene has been appointed as a resident advisor to Thebe Investment Corporation from 1 May 2016 on a two year contract.
It seems like the comment in edition 27 of Political Perceptions of December 2015 was relatively accurate. “Let us hope that Nhlanhla Nene sticks to his principles and rejects Zuma’s proposed redeployment. A man of his ability can get a top job anywhere in the Financial Industry without having to sacrifice his dignity and integrity.”
Before President Zuma castigates The Speaker or Members of Parliament that over and above the points already listed he should consider some of his actions that also bring him into disrepute such as:
- Justifying his appointment of van Rooyen saying “He’s a trained finance and economic comrade, more qualified than any minister I have ever appointed there, in the finance issue”.
- Rather than accept he had made an error of judgement in December with his decision to sack Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on 10 January 2016 President Jacob Zuma said markets did not understand and overreacted.
- The possibility of being charged with over 700 charges of fraud.
- Being charged with rape, although found not guilty, of an HIV positive young women and then admitting to having a shower to avoid contracting the disease.
The list can go on and on, in a normal constitutional democracy any one of the above would have resulted in the President resigning but no Zuma believes that he can rule until “Jesus comes again”.
How can Zuma instruct Speaker Mbete Baleka that she must get her house in order, she hardly has the credentials to do this.
South Africans have not forgotten that in April 1997 as Deputy Speaker she travelled to Delmas in Mpumalanga to get her driver’s licence because she was too busy to stand in queues. Although the licence was received fraudulently she has never been criminally charged.
It is common cause that a New York law firm found that the share allocation of R25 million made to Mbete by Gencor constituted bribery. The law firm, which was commissioned by Gold Fields, found that the South African mining house had hugely increased Mbete’s cut in a contentious 2010 empowerment deal in response to an alleged threat by her representative.
Under her stewardship the National Assembly adopted a motion that absolved Jacob Zuma of all liability despite warnings that it was unconstitutional.
On 31 March the Constitutional Court ruled that “The resolution passed by the National Assembly absolving the President from compliance with the remedial action taken by the Public Protector in terms of section 182(1)(c) of the Constitution is inconsistent with sections 42(3)‚ 55(2)(a) and (b) and 181(3) of the Constitution‚ is invalid and is set aside”
How can Jacob Zuma seriously believe that the actions of the Speaker who is known not to be impartial but to put the President and the ANC first can enhance our constitutional democracy?
Yes, the time has come for our parliamentarians, particularly the EFF but also all the other parties, to stop parliament from becoming a circus in the eyes of the electorate. Voters want to see and hear their representatives in action not empty seats in the NA. The Constitutional Court earned the opposition more support than ten walk outs from the assembly.
The time has come for President Jacob Zuma to realise that he is the one who is making the South African Constitutional Democracy the laughing stock of not only Africa but the whole world.
Until next time,
This newsletter is published by Clive Hatch former Leader of the Opposition in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature and former DA Provincial Leader. These views are my personal views and do not represent those of any other person or organisation.
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