Deputy President David Mabuza warded off attempts by the Economic Freedom Fighters to make him condemn Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan during a session of oral replies at the National Council of Provinces on Thursday afternoon.
Mabuza was replying to a question from EFF member of Parliament Mmabatho Mokause, who asked him whether he has engaged with Gordhan, claiming that the minister continues to ignore correspondence and questions from MPs.
As deputy president, Mabuza also serves as leader of government business. This means he is responsible for ensuring that members of the executive comply with their constitutional obligations to the legislature and subject themselves to oversight.
Mokause's question and how it was framed could be seen as part of the EFF's attempts to go after Gordhan through the parliamentary processes. Members of the party in Parliament have also been vocal about wanting Jabu Mabuza of Eskom and Nico Bezuidenhout from SAA removed.
The deputy president reminded Mokause that his primary role, as leader of government business in Parliament included monitoring the affairs of the national executive in Parliament and ensuring that ministers answered questions posed to them by MPs.
"We constantly remind the executive to prioritise their parliamentary responsibilities, including answering questions posed to them by members of Parliament, both orally and in writing," said Mabuza.
Mabuza said that, of the 54 questions from EFF to Gordhan, 53 were answered, while one remained unanswered or lapsed.
Mokause took issue with Mabuza's reply, saying the EFF had written letters to Gordhan, asking him about the nature of his relationship with Werkmans Attorneys. She also asked Mabuza about Gordhan's relationship with Bezuidenhout and (Jabu) Mabuza.
"Gordhan continues to ignore these questions from us. He acts as if he is beyond Parliament and he acts as if he is above the law. With these things considered, does this not sound to you like someone who is a constitutional delinquent?" Mokause asked.
Mabuza said he could not explain on Gordhan's behalf why questions the EFF sent him privately were not answered. In his role as leader of government business, he (Mabuza) is responsible for ensuring questions referred through the formal channels are answered.
"I don't stand before you because I want to. I stand before you as a responsibility entrusted in me by the South African people. I can't say anything if you have written private letters to each other," Mabuza told Mokause.
"I am answering this question as one tabled to me by law, but if there are private discussions between you and the minister, how would I know?"