Zuma not avoiding Parliament questions – presidency

2014-10-19 13:41

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A report about President Jacob Zuma not meeting his parliamentary obligations is incorrect and grossly misleading, the presidency has said.

The article by the Sunday Times, headlined: “SA’s number one ... COWARD!”, claims that Zuma will avoid taking direct questions from opposition MPs in Parliament until Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader Julius Malema and his supporters have been tamed.

“The president continues to meet his parliamentary obligations. The president responds to oral questions four times a year in the National Assembly,” spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement today.

“During an election year, this time is naturally reduced given the time taken to prepare for elections and to establish a new government and other activities.”

Maharaj said discussions were ongoing with the National Assembly to sort out dates for oral questions.

African National Congress spokesperson Zizi Kodwa is quoted as saying the Sunday Times: “The president can’t go to Parliament when that Parliament is a circus.”

“Parliament therefore must sort itself out.”

The rules of Parliament require that the president face leaders of opposition parties and answer their questions four times a year.

Zuma has only done so once this year on August 21. On that day, EFF MPs interrupted questions posed to him and shouted: “pay back the money”, referring to money spent by government on his Nkandla homestead.

Maharaj said Zuma continued to respond to questions for written replies from members of Parliament.

“A perusal of parliamentary records or even the presidency website will indicate this fact,” he said.

“The president also decided last term to also answer oral questions in the National Council of Provinces. Discussions are taking place with the NCOP to sort out the programme.”

Maharaj noted that Zuma was not a member of Parliament, which was why he did not attend plenary sessions of the National Assembly.

“He however goes to the House when invited and also to perform tasks such as responding to questions, or to deliver the State of the Nation address or any other special address.”

Reacting to the report, Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said Zuma had become an embarrassment to the ANC.

“The decision apparently taken by Luthuli House to relieve President Jacob Zuma from his constitutional duty to account to Parliament should be rejected with contempt,” he said.

“We know that President Zuma has become an embarrassment to the ANC. But this does not mean the ANC has the right to determine whether or not the president appears before Parliament to answer questions.”

Maimane said he would be writing to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to account for Zuma’s absence from Parliament.

“This is the latest of many attempts by the ANC to shield the president from scrutiny ... Whether the ANC likes it or not, Jacob Zuma is the president of South Africa with all of the obligations that go with that.

“This includes appearing before Parliament to account for his performance in government.”

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