To have friends is human – Zuma on Guptas

2013-06-20 08:34

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President Jacob Zuma has defended his relationship with the Gupta family, telling Parliament every human being has to choose friends.

Responding to a question from Independent Democrats’ Joe McGluwa about whether he will cut ties with the family, Zuma said South Africa was not a “state that bans that”.

The influential Gupta family made headlines when a plane ferrying their wedding guests from India landed at the Waterkloof Air Base in violation of the law, and led to the suspension of several government officials.

Zuma also pooh-poohed a question from DA Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko about what he planned to do to end the culture of “name dropping” – where politically-connected people use names of prominent politicians to gain undue favours – saying there was a report before Parliament about that issue.

Zuma said his name was “dropped everywhere”, even where there were car accidents.

Asked why the family had direct contact with cabinet ministers, Zuma said any member of the public was free to contact ministers directly.

“This is in line with the ethos of our administration which promotes an open and accessible government,” he said.

In what appeared to be a bid to deflect the flak Zuma’s association with the Guptas has attracted, the ANC deputy chief whip asked the president whether he was concerned about Western Cape Premier and DA leader Helen Zille’s relationship with the Guptas.

In response Zuma said he had no problem, and that the Western Cape was not his province.

Zuma also dismissed calls for a more flexible labour regime to promote employment and economic growth, saying it was a misconception to claim that labour relations had hurt economic growth in the first quarter of this year.

The growth of the gross domestic product grew by 0.9%, way below the Reserve Bank’s forecast.

He said South Africa was doing well in dealing with its labour and economic problems given that the economy was formerly racially-based.

“Honourable members, we are also aware of the disruptions in the mining sector. Added to this are global economic factors that are beyond our control.

“A more liberal approach to product markets would not have avoided these negative developments,” he said.

Zuma said government was working with labour and the mining sector to resolve problems besetting that sector of the economy.

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