A call by Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane in the National Assembly today for a special debate on the president failing to appear to answer a full session of oral questions has been dismissed as posturing.
“It has ... become quite clear that President Jacob Zuma has no intention to come and appear before this house,” Maimane told speaker Baleka Mbete.
He added that the president was supported in this by the ANC, who held the view that the questions asked should embarrass him.
“I want to say that it is not the questions we ask in this house that embarrass the president, it is the answers he gives in this house that embarrass the president,” he said, to cheers from opposition benches.
Maimane appealed to Mbete to schedule a debate on the matter.
“Schedule this debate. It is your constitutional obligation ... to put the president in his place,” he told her.
It was clear Zuma held Parliament in disdain, and this was deplorable, he said.
“The president has not completed an oral question in this Parliament since November [last year]. In our view, this is an assault on the Constitution and the rules of this Parliament.
“He sets the worst example for his Cabinet ministers, who also feel they can bunk Parliament whenever they feel like doing it,” he said.
Responding to Maimane’s statement, Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery dismissed what he called the DA’s “posturing”. He said it had to be remembered that this year had been an election year.
“The issue really is ... it’s been an election year, so although the rules do provide for [oral replies by the president] four times a year, we have had an election.”
The president had been in Parliament to respond to issues during two state of the nation addresses, two state of the nation debates and a presidency budget vote.
“The honourable members of the DA need to remember that they are basically just being an opposition; people on this side [of the house] are running a country,” he said.
Later today, Maimane said Zuma had run away from accountability for too long, and he had written to Mbete asking for the special debate.
“I have given the speaker until November 3 to respond to my request and to schedule this debate of national importance,” he said.