/ 6 November 2013

Zuma: Who is ‘Number One’?

President Jacob Zuma told the National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon that he had no idea who "Number One" is, and denied any knowledge that an aircraft chartered by the powerful Gupta family was going to land at the Waterkloof Air Base earlier this year.

Beeld reported last month that according to an affidavit by a senior air force official Christine Anderson, Zuma was involved in the Guptagate debacle and is "Number One".

Congress of the People MP Mlindi Nhanha asked Zuma to come clean and put an end to the entire saga of the Gupta plane landing, which he said seemed to refuse to go away.

Nhanha added that the term "Number One" came up in almost all reports about the saga; he then asked Zuma "in your own knowledge, can you advise this house, who could be this Number One?"

Nhanha added that Number One seemed to be Mzekezeke. Mzekezeke is a popular Kwaito artist, who masks his face with a balaclava and whose identity is unknown.

"How would I know about Number One, or Mzekezeke, a man with a balaclava?" said Zuma.

'Authorisation of civilian aircraft'
Beeld reported on an excerpt of the affidavit by Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson: "On or about April 17 2013, Mr [Bruce] Koloane phoned me and he informed me that he had returned from the president and that the president wanted to know 'if everything is still on track for the flight'." 

Nhanha was one of the MPs who were following up on a question asked by DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko on whether Zuma had any involvement in, knowledge of or communication related to the landing of the Gupta aircraft at Air Force Base Waterkloof.

"No, I had no prior knowledge, involvement or communication relating to the landing of a private plane at AFB Waterkloof," said Zuma.

"The president is neither directly nor indirectly involved in the authorisation of civilian aircraft landing at airbases like AFB Waterkloof," he added.

"There are so many thousands of people who land in airports in this country. The president knows nothing about those people. There are so many people who land at Lanseria, at OR [Tambo] … why should the president know about these numbers? I can't answer on behalf of an official in some military tribunal, that's not my business," said Zuma.

Issue of credit cards
Zuma also revealed that amendments to the treasury regulation on the issue of state credit cards were published for public comment on Wednesday, November 6.

But he side-stepped direct questions on what he, as the president would be doing to contribute to the cost-cutting measures which were announced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in the mid-term budget last month.

Cope leader, Mosiuoa Lekota said they had thought that instead of getting rid of the credit cards, the government would get rid of corrupt ministers, premiers and officials "especially those who eat more Kentucky than the whole of Khayelitsha can afford".

"Instead of dealing with the corrupt people, who are doing that, you are eliminating a credit card as if it is corrupt and leaving behind the corrupt people sitting there…" said Lekota.

While the Democratic Alliance welcomed the number of steps announced by Gordhan to tighten the spending perimeters for members of the Cabinet and the government, it was concerned that there was a deafening silence regarding what steps Zuma himself would take to contribute to the cuts to wasteful expenditure.

Zuma wouldn't commit himself.

Formally notified
He responded that the decision taken by the Cabinet and announced by Gordhan was taken by all members of Cabinet and no one was outside that decision.

Secondly, there was no decision that specific departments must do something differently. This was a decision taken and supported by the government overall, he said.

"I don't appreciate a situation where we are going to single out certain departments away from others, because there is no reason to do so," added Zuma.

Earlier, he had announced that ministers have already been informed formally of the decision to withdraw credit cards from all political office bearers and officials with the government and other spheres of government were being formally notified as well.

He said the amendments to the treasury regulation on the issue of the credit cards were published for public comment on Wednesday.

"In instances where there has been credit card abuse in the past, the transgressors will be dealt with according to the appropriate regulations and structures," he said.