Lekota seething over Parliament drama
The controversy surrounding the continued concealment of the 2009 spy tapes and transcripts – that led to corruption charges being dropped against Zuma – took a fresh twist on Tuesday as Congress of the People (Cope) president Mosiuoa Lekota was ejected from Parliament.
After Lekota refused to withdraw statements related to his call for Zuma to be impeached over the tapes being withheld, deputy speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo demanded the opposition politician leave the National Assembly.
"I have done nothing wrong," a seething Lekota told the Mail & Guardian.
Lekota previously claimed in Parliament that Zuma had violated a Supreme Court of Appeal order, which compelled the president to hand over the abbreviated transcripts of the tapes widely seen to have paved the way for his ascendancy to the presidency in 2009.
"I am determined to uphold my oath of office to defend the Constitution. The ANC's attempt at violating Parliament and the president's disregard for the Constitution will not stop me."
Lekota said it was his constitutional right to bring the controversy surrounding the spy tapes to light. "The Constitution guarantees the right to say what we feel is necessary."
"There is no way the president or his attorney could have done this without breaking the law in some way or the other."
In possession of spy tapes
Lekota's ejection from Parliament came barely hours after Michael Hulley, Zuma's lawyer and presidential legal advisor, on Monday conceded for the first time that he was in possession of the tapes and transcripts – but categorically stated that he would not part with them.
In March, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) must release reduced transcripts of the tapes to the DA. But Hulley cited a 2009 confidentiality agreement between Zuma and the NPA as the reason for not releasing them.
"When we made the representations we sought an undertaking from the NPA to say we would like to make certain portions in confidence. There was an acceptance with nothing from the SCA frowning on this," Hulley was quoted as saying in the Times.
"There was no [court] ruling to say it was ill-advised for the NPA to entertain such representations," he added.
Lekota said his expulsion from Parliament and Hulley's determination in refusing to release the tapes was a sign that something was being concealed by the president.
"It is plain and simple, the president is refusing to uphold the Constitution in order to protect his own selfish interests," he said.
Lekota has received tacit support from the Democratic Alliance following his expulsion, with chief whip Watty Watson calling for an urgent meeting with speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, to discuss "this disgraceful behaviour".
"This behaviour follows the deputy speaker’s rejection of both a debate of public importance on Nkandlagate, and her decision not to allow for a joint sitting to allow President Zuma to present his programme of action to reverse the economic downturn," he said.
"It is clear that the deputy speaker does not respect the precedent which requires that her office is independent."
However, the ANC is conversely calling for action to be taken against Lekota for "misleading Parliament".
"The rules of Parliament are plain and clear: you can't cast aspersions on someone or defame them without proper evidence – its character assassination otherwise," Moloto Mothapo, spokesperson for the ANC chief whip, told the M&G.
Mothapo said that owing to Lekota's experience in Parliament – having been a member of the house since 1994 – it was unfortunate to see him "lose the plot".
"He should be the last person to be reminded of the rules. It is clear this was and continues to be an attempt at headline mongering in order to stay in the spotlight," he added.
Mothapo also quashed suggestions that Zuma did in fact have a case to answer by providing the spy tapes for judicial scrutiny. "We have bigger things to worry about than this. It is certainly not the type of thing Parliament needs to deal with."