- Deputy President David Mabuza said Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, amid all the criticism, was simply doing her job.
- Mabuza also said President Cyril Ramaphosa was in charge and not Dlamini-Zuma.
- DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone called Dlamini-Zuma the "unofficial prime minister of the country".
Deputy President David Mabuza has defended under fire Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, saying that, amid a slew of criticism, she is simply doing her job.
Dlamini-Zuma, who has become the unofficial face of the ban on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products, has been in and out of court to defend the government's regulations under the nationwide lockdown.
During a hybrid question and answer session in the National Assembly on Thursday, Mabuza defended the work of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).
Mabuza also made it clear that President Cyril Ramaphosa is in charge and not Dlamini-Zuma.
"Therefore, the minister (Dlamini-Zuma) has been given the role, with other ministers, to work out regulations every time we make a movement between levels of the lockdown. The minister (Dlamini-Zuma) is just doing her job, like any other minister. The president is still the president. He is commanding the command council and the Cabinet. Nothing has gone wrong," Mabuza said.
Mabuza also took a swipe at DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone, who called Dlamini-Zuma the "unofficial prime minister of the country".
"It will be incorrect to say that Minister Dlamini-Zuma is now prime minister. It is because of her role in the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department (Cogta). Cogta is the one that administers the (Disaster Management) Act, under which we have declared our national disaster," Mabuza said.
Earlier this month, News24 reported that Cabinet had deferred taking any decisions related to amending regulations under alert Level 3 of the national lockdown pending a full health assessment report from the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19.
The advisory committee is led by Professor Salim Abdool Karim.
In a supplementary question to Mabuza, Mazzone said the decisions by the NCCC have been embarrassing.
"The problem is no one elected this command council. But Parliament is elected. Some of the regulations have been a hot mess. Minister Dlamini-Zuma now has an incredible amount of power because she is in fact in charge of running this council as she oversees the Disaster Management Act.
"So what we have here is an unelected prime minister, who is governing over an unelected sub-Parliament of ministers. We have a deputy president, who is the leader of government business in Parliament somewhat sidelined, and a president who is seemingly powerless. Why is Parliament not used to conduct oversight?" Mazzone said.
Mabuza said the NCCC plays an important role in South Africa's fight against the coronavirus.
"Mostly ministers and the president chair that command council. I sit as deputy president. This structure is processing the impact and looking at the spread of this virus. It makes and recommends certain decisions to Cabinet. Cabinet is still in charge and it is still accountable in terms of its own workings. We answer questions to Parliament. We have not abdicated that responsibility," he said.