Controversy in Jozini

2018-04-20 12:42
Former president Jacob Zuma.

Former president Jacob Zuma. (File)

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Several ANC MPLs were left fuming after former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters in the legislature had used an official event to promote the former ruling party leader who is embroiled in legal battles with the State.

The Zuma supporters in the legislature organising the interfaith symposium hosted by the provincial legislature in Jozini in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, left many baffled when they made him keynote speaker at the event.

Both the ANC caucus and the multi-party forums, which should have been consulted, were bypassed when the decision was made to invite Zuma to deliver the memorial lecture in tribute to struggle icons Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu as part of the interfaith symposium.

“I was shocked when I heard that he would be speaking. The matter was not discussed at either the ANC caucus or the multi-party forum … what happened is unprecedented in the history of the democratic parliament,” ANC Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) Cyril Xaba said.

Adverts taken out by the provincial legislature about the event in various newspapers and the official programme had not mentioned that Zuma would be part of the event.

The Witness has been reliably informed that Speaker Lydia Johnson was left with very little room to manoeuvre after Zuma supporters in the public participation and petitions portfolio committee co-ordinating the event informed her at the 11th hour that Zuma would be speaking.

“The legislature has been hosting these kinds of events for a while now and there has never been any issues.

“We were all under the impression that everything was going fine in terms of logistics and other preparations.

“We were all taken aback when we discovered that some people have decided to use the event for ANC internal battles. The objective of the event is to ensure that the general public is part of the legislature activities … how these people go all the way out to create controversy by bringing in Zuma is beyond anybody’s understanding,” a legislature staffer said.

Another ANC MPL accused Zuma supporters in the legislature of being prepared to destroy parliament’s image to advance their pro-Zuma campaign.

“They are currently waging this pro-Zuma campaign designed to undermine the current ANC leadership.

“If they want to promote Zuma they must use their private organisations and not the legislature.

“As a member of the ANC caucus I must say that I’m really concerned that these people are prepared to use their positions in the legislature to push their narrow political agenda,” said the ANC MPL, who did not attend the Jozini event in protest against the decision to invite Zuma.

Johnson said the decision to invite Zuma was made by the interfaith organisations who were being hosted by the provincial legislature.

“The request came from the interfaith representatives and there were no grounds on which the request would have been turned down,” her spokesperson, Wonder Hlongwa, said.

The Witness has since established that Vusi Dube, who is the chairperson of the public participation and petitions portfolio committee, played a key role in the co-ordination of the event.

Dube is a known Zuma supporter who played a central role in the mobilisation of support for the former president during his recent court appearance in Durban.

A pastor, Dube is part of religious leaders supporting the former president in the province.

Dube could not be reached for comment.

Zuma supporters in the province were dealt a major blow during last year’s ANC presidential race following the defeat of their preferred candidate, former AU chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

According to insiders part of the Zuma camp’s fight-back strategy includes the hosting of events where he would be speaker to provide him with a platform to attack his detractors both within and outside the ANC.

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