Parties bail over ‘VIP’ Zuma

2018-05-16 16:00
Former president Jacob Zuma sits in on the budget speech at the KZN legislature on Tuesday.

Former president Jacob Zuma sits in on the budget speech at the KZN legislature on Tuesday. (Ian Carbutt)

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What was supposed to be a routine budget speech at the legislature on Tuesday was disrupted by former president Jacob Zuma’s unexpected presence there.

Three opposition parties — the DA, NFP and EFF — stormed out of a R2,3 billion budget speech to protest the presence of Zuma, who sat on a seat in the wing of the chamber, adjacent to the speaker’s seat.

Zuma arrived in a cavalcade of numerous luxury vehicles and was ushered in by the premier, Willies Mchunu, the speaker, Lydia Johnson, and ANC MEC for Economic Development Sihle Zikalala.

Zuma sat listening to the argument about whether he should be afforded VIP status in the house, sometimes with animated expressions on his face.

The three opposition parties said legislature rules had been violated to allow Zuma to sit inside the house, saying he should have sat in the public gallery with other guests.

The DA, NFP and EFF said they would write to Johnson to ask why whips of the opposition parties had not been informed beforehand about Zuma’s visit, which they said was a normal procedure when a prominent person had been invited as a guest at the legislature.

Matters threatened to get ugly when the EFF refused to leave the chamber when instructed to do so by MPL Yusuf Bhamjee, who was chairing the session.

EFF MPL Vukani Ndlovu had interrupted Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Themba Mthembu’s budget speech to question why Zuma had been allowed to sit inside the chamber.

Bhamjee eventually backtracked on his decision to eject the EFF MPLs, only for them to leave the house later after the DA and NFP MPLs had already staged a walkout.

DA leader in the provincial legislature Francois Rodgers said they could not keep quiet while Zuma, whom he blamed for the province’s economic crises, was allowed to sit in the House.

“The province faces massive cuts to the equitable share, an unfunded mandate in the form of izinduna remuneration and a VAT increase. Put simply — the DA is not prepared to sit in the same House as the architect of this financial misery, Jacob Zuma,” he said.

EFF MPL Vukani Ndlovu walks out during the budget speech on Tuesday following Zuma's unexpected visit.

Rodgers said Zuma’s presence was also another sign of divisions in the ANC. “It is clear that the battle lines have been drawn in KZN, with one faction of the ANC pledging its undying support to Zuma, while the other sides with new president Cyril Ramaphosa. It cannot be a coincidence that Ramaphosa made an unannounced visit to address ANC leadership yesterday [Monday] and today [Tuesday] Zuma makes his own unannounced appearance,” he said.

EFF MPL Vusi Khoza said they would never allow Zuma to sit inside the chamber. “We are not going to sit in the same House with the person who was kicked out of his national Parliament for his own shenanigans. Now he must come here to be profiled and act like he is big. We are not going to be addressed by him. We are not going to sit in the same house as him.

“We reject Zuma and we are not going to elevate him when he was rejected at national Parliament. They must stop this nonsense of bending rules to suit certain people’s egos,” he said.

NFP leader in the legislature Viki­zitha Mlotshwa said Zuma should not have been allowed to come inside the chamber. “He was supposed to sit in the gallery with other guests. There are so many cases laid against him which are still going on. He is not an honourable member who is supposed to sit in the place where honourable members sit,” he said.

The IFP, which did not walk out, said it rejected the ANC’s decision to bring Zuma in without advising political parties in advance.

Deputy chief whip Mdumiseni Ntuli conceded that opposition parties should have been informed of Zuma’s visit beforehand.

However, chief whip Nontembeko Boyce said Zuma was allowed to sit in the wings of the chamber, saying other prominent guests had been allowed before to sit there. Boyce said Zuma’s wife, Sizakele MaKhumalo Zuma, and other politicians had been allowed to sit on the seat in previous budget speeches.

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