Mbete and Modise slammed

2015-02-22 15:00

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ANC MPs came down hard on Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete and chairperson of the national council of provinces Thandi Modise over the blocking of the network signal in Parliament during President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address.

ANC sources have revealed that a number of ANC MPs rebuked Parliament’s presiding officers and security cluster ministers, blaming them for the infamous signal jamming and saying the incident was an example of the own goals the party was conceding.

The ANC caucus met for its weekly Thursday morning meeting and looked for answers about the incident.

The presiding officers, according to the sources who attended the meeting, could not offer any satisfactory explanation why the signal was jammed, who called for the jamming and who approved it.

City Press understands that ANC MPs demanded that signal jamming never happen again.

According to three ANC sources, senior MP Charles Nqakula, the former police minister, raised the issue. And a number of the ANC’s national executive committee members, including Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula, also raised their concerns over the matter.

“The presiding officers were criticised very sharply by a number of MPs, including Mbalula, who said they were scoring an own goal,” said one source.

Mbalula, through his spokesperson, Esethu Hasane, refused to be drawn on the matter when contacted for comment, saying that he knew nothing of it and that he had arrived at the caucus meeting late.

But three sources told City Press he was vocal and was the last speaker at the meeting condemning the blocking of the signal.

Nqakula could not be reached for comment.

According to the ANC sources, MPs accused Mbete and Modise of not paying attention to detail, and allowing Parliament and the presidency’s security teams working with intelligence agencies to take over the security of Parliament.

“They were told they should not allow the security people to do as they pleased,” said one source.

Mbete allegedly told the meeting the same story she told journalists – that she had been briefed, and had received a list of things that were being brought to Parliament – but that she had not scrutinised the plans and was not aware what exactly a scrambling device was.

ANC MPs reportedly told the meeting they also didn’t buy the security cluster’s explanation of a low-flying plane. The MPs said they had experience in intelligence operations and the explanation amounted to nonsense.

The party resolved it would not seek to explain the incident, but that those who were behind it (meaning State Security Minister David Mahlobo) should explain it to the media and apologise.

Spokesperson for the ANC caucus Moloto Mothapo refused to comment on the caucus discussions. He said it would be unethical to comment about a closed meeting to the media.

On Thursday President Zuma, who had been taking the heat for a week following the extraordinary security measures adopted during his state of the nation address and for the bland speech itself, recovered some of his lost stature.

At 2pm he delivered a masterpiece of a speech that single-handedly redeemed not only himself but also his party, stealing the moment from the opposition and earning praise from even his staunchest critics.

He employed his famous charm to disarm his political adversaries – notably Julius Malema – praising the EFF leader for “expressing his views properly and with respect”. Congress of the People leader Mosioua Lekota – another nemesis – received similar praise for debating without resorting to anger.

“Once you are angry, the capacity to think is affected,” said Zuma.

His oblique political attacks were just as calculated. He rebuked DA leader of the opposition Mmusi Maimane, without once mentioning him by name: “Soccer players say ‘play the ball not the man’,” he scolded.

President Zuma completed the comeback with a 12-minute lecture to Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder, who had accused him of alienating Afrikaners with his remarks on race.

Mulder was lectured on the history of the dispossession of Africans following the arrival of the settlers. “No one will chase you away. You belong here,” the president said to rapturous applause from the public gallery and ANC benches.

If President Zuma was a broken man earlier in the week, he had not only managed to put the pieces of his image back together, but he had silenced his detractors in two hours of political mastery.

Even Lekota and Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi joined the standing ovation at the end of the performance.

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