Zuma takes questions on Muthambi, Motsoeneng and SAA

Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma didn’t answer why he is "always associated with incompetent and corrupt characters" like former Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Furthermore, he doesn’t blame South African Airways (SAA) chairperson Dudu Myeni for the airline’s woes, but admits that SAA has "never been on top of the world".

During Thursday’s question session with Zuma in the National Assembly, DA leader Mmusi Maimane asked Zuma about the proclamation he signed allowing the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to investigate the SABC. 

In his follow up question, Maimane said SABC’s problems are also found at other state owned enterprises.

He said Myeni is a "close associate" of Zuma.

"You have taken poor people’s money to subsidise SAA which is run by your close associate," Maimane said. 

Maimane asked if it isn’t time to remove Myeni.

'You can blame many people'

In response, Zuma said, "Firstly, the specific company you’re referring to…" he said, interrupted by a cough, "- the South African Airways - this company has never been on top of the world".

He said the airline’s problems started "long before the people working there now" and the problems can’t be blamed on one person. 

"I don’t think you can blame anyone. You can blame many people," said Zuma.

He did not refer to Myeni by name. 

"The president can’t stand there and lie," said EFF MP Godrich Gardee, with his colleague Hlengiwe Hlophe chiming in, "SAA is now going under because of your girlfriend, baba!"

After the resulting points of order, Agang MP Andries Tlouamma reverted back to the original topic – the SABC. He said Muthambi, now minister of public service and administration, and Motsoeneng, "left the SABC in tatters".

Also read: I am more dangerous outside the SABC - Motsoeneng

"Why are you always associated with incompetent or corrupt characters?" Tlouamma asked.

"When will you fire Faith Muthambi?"

While Tlouamma was speaking, Muthambi, in a rare appearance in Parliament, smiled broadly. 

"I’m not firing the honourable Muthambi. I have not made that decision," Zuma said.

'Defending a criminal'

In early March, the National Assembly adopted the report of the ad hoc committee that investigated the SABC board, which found Muthambi "incompetent" and recommended that Zuma reconsider her appointment as minister of communications.

Read: Muthambi, Motsoeneng haunts SABC board interviews

Later that month, during the contentious late night Cabinet reshuffle, he appointed her to her current position.

Since then, Muthambi’s name cropped up on a list by Parliament’s legal services on people who might have misled Parliament during their testimony before the ad hoc committee.  

The EFF was not satisfied that Zuma answered Tlouamma’s question and protested loudly.

Pointing directly at Zuma, Gardee said, "You’re going to give an answer here, baba."

Zuma laughed.

During the subsequent tiff with deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, EFF leader Julius Malema bellowed to Tsenoli, "You are defending a criminal of note." 

He said Tsenoli is preventing the MPs from doing their job.

"Honourable deputy speaker, you cannot defend a criminal!"

Tsenoli ordered that Gardee, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and Malema leave the House, which they did, followed by the rest of the EFF caucus, while Zuma stood serenely behind the podium.

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