EFF threat to question Zuma is not helpful – Maimane

2015-01-15 12:59

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Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane has distanced the official opposition from a threat by the Economic Freedom Fighters to corner President Jacob Zuma on the Nkandla controversy at the opening of Parliament next month.

“The EFF’s planned disruption of the state of the nation may be good for high drama, but it does not help to restore Parliament’s role as the apex of our democracy’s mechanisms of accountability,” Maimane told a press conference on the steps of the National Assembly in Cape Town today.

“Destroying the institution of Parliament in no way strengthens its role.”

Maimane denied that this marked a U-turn for the DA benches who last year flouted the legislature’s rules when, along with the EFF, it heckled Speaker Baleka Mbete, chanting “you must go”.

Reminded that both he and DA MP Mike Waters also ignored orders from Mbete, resulting in them being reported to the legislature’s powers and privileges committee late last year, Maimane said he believed Mbete should instead be hauled before the disciplinary body.

“The Speaker Baleka Mbete is part of the problem. She is here to break down the rules. It is not only my admission, it is also the admission of the deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who stood up and said the rules of Parliament must be applied fairly, agreeing with it that they had not been applied fairly,” he said.

Ramaphosa brokered a detente between the ANC and opposition parties late last year after police clashed with MPs in the National Assembly on November 13 when they entered the chamber to remove an EFF MP who called the president a thief.

But the truce lasted a mere day before the ANC and DA fell out about the latter’s insistence to proceed against Zuma for dodging questions over his Nkandla homestead.

That issue lies at the heart of tensions that made riot police on standby a regular sight in the parliamentary precinct last year.

Maimane said the DA would approach the issue by demanding a meeting of the National Assembly programming committee some time this month so that it could fix five days in 2015 when Zuma would appear before the house to answer questions.

In contrast, EFF leader Julius Malema has written to Mbete demanding that a special sitting be called before the opening on February 12 to allow Zuma to answer questions, failing which they would put these to him on the day of his address.

In her response, sent on Tuesday, Mbete urged the EFF to desist.

Yesterday, senior parliamentary officials said putting questions to the president would flout conventions of the legislature, which though not to be found in the rule book, had “crystallised into standing orders”.

Malema and 11 other MPs have served suspension periods for disrupting Parliament on August 21 when they chanted at Zuma “pay back the money” after he was asked a question about the R246 million upgrade of his homestead in Nkandla.

The sitting was adjourned, and to the opposition’s frustration the president has yet to return to conclude his responses.

Maimane said today he would not entertain the ANC’s demand that the opposition promise to treat Zuma with respect before he agreed to answer questions since the president did not get to set conditions.

He simply had to comply with the constitutional requirement to respond to MPs questions four times a year.

“I don’t know where the president gets this notion,” he said.

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