Parliament: Nothing to see here

Zuma and Ramphosa with ministers and deputies at Wednesday’s cabinet committees meeting. (GCIS)
Zuma and Ramphosa with ministers and deputies at Wednesday’s cabinet committees meeting. (GCIS)

Cape Town – Nothing to see or hear here – this was the general vibe around Parliament and Tuynhuys on Wednesday as the country held its collective breath waiting for news on President Jacob Zuma's future.

While journalists set up camp under a tree opposite the entrance to the National Assembly on Wednesday morning, Speaker Baleka Mbete was inside the building with party chief whips for a special chief whips' forum meeting.

This meeting couldn't set a new date for the State of the Nation Address (SONA), but there was an agreement that the budget speech would definitely go ahead on February 21, regardless of any change in the Presidency.

Meanwhile, at Tuynhuys, Zuma was holding Cabinet committee meetings with select government clusters this week, with ANC president and deputy president of the country Cyril Ramaphosa also in attendance.

The government's Twitter accounts posted photos of Zuma sitting next to Ramaphosa – both smiling like Cheshire cats. Several ministers and deputy ministers were also pictured, all smiling. The tweets were at pains to point out that these were "scheduled routine meetings of Cabinet committees in Cape Town".


Shortly before 14:00 Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies left Tuynhuys and walked past the assembled press corps almost unnoticed, his cellphone stuck to his ear.

'The mood is normal'

Thereafter the journalists jogged the few metres to Tuynhuys, taking positions behind the black painted palisade, on the other side of the vehicles parked in front of the Cape Dutch building housing the Presidency in Cape Town. The cars are mostly black, some with blue lights atop, all of them expensive.

Energy Minister David Mahlobo made his way out of Tuynhuys, holding a plastic bottle of water in his left hand. Asked what the mood in the cabinet meeting was, he answered: "The mood is normal!"

He seemed rather perplexed by the question.

Shortly thereafter Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane appeared behind the journalists. She seemed somewhat bemused with the gaggle of reporters congregated in front of Tuynhuys.

The journalists immediately circled her, hungry for new information.

Kubayi-Ngubane said there wasn't any, and explained that this was because the Cabinet meetings were routine. She advised members of the media to consider moving away from Tuynhuys as their presence might make the security detail antsy.

'Government work continues'

This didn't stop journalists, especially foreign journalists, peppering her with questions about an imminent change in the Presidency.

"If there's changes, it will be announced," she said.

That wasn't the end of it.

"Despite SONA being postponed, government work continues," she said.

WATCH: Deal or no deal? What's going on with #Zexit?

She said there was consultation between the presidency and the Speaker of the National Assembly to determine a new date for SONA.

"So once that consultation is done, there will be an announcement, we're hoping very soon, before the end of the week.

'Constructive discussions'

Again, she was asked about Zuma's resignation.

Again, she said once this happens, it would be communicated.

"Currently there isn't anything."


Other ministers and deputy ministers also filed out of Tuynhuys, but there was no sign of Zuma or Ramaphosa.

Journalists' attention was however drawn to their phones/tablets/laptops as the ANC released a press statement from Ramaphosa at 14:17, in an attempt to "clarify some matters" after "a lot of speculation and anxiety about the position of President Jacob Zuma as the head of state and government of our country".

READ: Ramaphosa, Zuma meet to discuss transition

Ramaphosa said he and Zuma had "constructive discussions".

Enter Shaun

"This will enable President Zuma and myself to conclude our discussions and report back to our organisation and the country in the coming days," reads Ramaphosa's statement.

"We will be able to communicate further on President Zuma's position as president of the republic once we have finalised all pertinent matters."

At around 14:30 ANC chief whip and staunch Ramaphosa ally Jackson Mthembu entered Tuynhuys. Earlier, national executive committee member Zweli Mkhize was also seen entering Tuynhuys.

And then the waiting resumed, until National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams provided a flutter of excitement shortly before 17:00 when he walked past Tuynhuys after a meeting in the adjacent Good Hope Building. Without breaking his brisk stride, he explained that he met with Minister of Justice Michael Masutha and Standing Committee on Public Accounts chair Themba Godi.

When one of the foreign journalists asked him if he is going to prosecute Jacob Zuma, he said: "No comment."


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