How it all fell apart

2014-11-21 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The ANC held a secret ­meeting with the DA on Tuesday in a ­desperate bid to head off a motion censuring President Jacob Zuma.

ANC MP Dr Gerhard Koornhof, an adviser to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, got his boss on the line to plead by phone with DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane to drop the motion.

But even the seasoned negotiator was ­unable to persuade the DA to drop its plan.

After the behind-the-scenes drama, ­Ramaphosa announced yesterday in a sharply worded statement that the multi-party agreement between him and the leaders of 11 ­opposition parties on Tuesday morning, had been scrapped.

The meeting had agreed that a political ­solution would be sought for the “unsustainable situation” in Parliament.

Yesterday’s statement said the DA’s motion was in conflict with the spirit of the ­agreement.

“We will not succeed in repairing the dignity, integrity and image of Parliament if parties cannot trust each other to stick to agreements,” Ramaphosa said.

Sister paper Beeld understands his office was trying to set up a meeting between ­Ramaphosa, party leaders and speaker Baleka Mbete to seek “political solutions” to the problems in Parliament.

The meeting, which could have taken place in Pretoria next Saturday, has been dropped and a new solution will be sought.

Beeld understands that Koornhof (on behalf of Ramaphosa), ANC chief whip Stone Sizani, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nquakula, Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery, Maimane, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen and his deputy, Mike Waters, and DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis slipped out of the Assembly at about 10 pm on Tuesday, shortly before the DA motion was scheduled to be heard.

The eight met in G26, a meeting room ­behind the speaker’s chair, and the ANC tried everything in its power to persuade the DA to drop or amend the motion.

The DA declined to listen and the ANC called in the help of UDM leader Bantu ­Holomisa and Cope’s Mosiuoa Lekota.

When that didn’t work, IFP leader ­Mangosothu Buthelezi and the Freedom Front Plus’s Pieter Mulder was approached.

Eventually, EFF MP Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala also arrived.

At one stage, Koornhof phoned Ramaphosa so he could speak directly to Maimane. He was apparently almost persuaded, but the other three DA MPs were unmoved.

At last, the opposition leaders asked the ANC to leave and “within three minutes” reached a decision: the DA would delay its ­motion by a day, soften the wording and ­remove the term “censure”.

The leaders then shook hands and hurried into the chamber to make sure the motion did not go ahead.

After the sitting, Ramaphosa was apparently criticised at an ANC caucas meeting by MPs unhappy with the agreement, as they had wanted the motion scrapped completely.

Maimane said that the next day he was asked by Ramaphosa to withdraw the motion.

“I negotiated with him and agreed to an amendment, but I could not withdraw it. It was a matter of principle.”

The motions was debated from 9.15 pm on Wednesday, and soundly defeated at about 10.45 pm.

Yesterday, the ANC criticised Maimane as dishonest for agreeing to one thing and doing the opposite.

But Maimane said the DA never agreed to drop the censure motion as part of the wider agreement. “The motion was not even mentioned at Tuesday morning’s meeting.”

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