Former speaker of the National Assembly Max Sisulu has resigned from Parliament.
Sisulu’s resignation did not come as a surprise as the ANC appointed Baleka Mbete in his position last week, and President Jacob Zuma also snubbed him when he appointed his executive early this week.
Speculation has been rife for months now that Sisulu would not serve a second term because he had alienated Zuma and other party leaders on several occasions.
Sisulu was elected National Assembly speaker in May 2009 but he apparently irked some within his own party, who were impatient with his apparent reluctance to preside over the assembly in a partisan way.
He and Thoko Didiza were the only two that were not appointed into the new Cabinet out of the ANC’s top 20 candidates for Parliament. It is believed that he fell out of favour with Zuma after allowing a debate on the landing of the Guptas’ plane at Waterkloof in May 2013.
More recently, others did not take kindly to Sisulu establishing an ad-hoc committee to look into the public protector’s report on the Nkandla upgrades, although his supporters insist this was done in consultation with the party leadership.
“He [Sisulu] did not play his politics well,” an NEC member sympathetic to Zuma said last month.
But ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe poured water on this suggestion when he spoke to journalists last week. Mantashe would not say why the ANC did not retain Sisulu as the speaker of the National Assembly, but rejected the allegation that it had to do with him establishing the Nkandla committee.
“The requirement is that once he receives a report, he must do something about that report in terms of the rules of Parliament. Would you be angry with the new speaker when that report is revived and discussed in the new Parliament?
“It would be a wrong approach. We can’t be angry with the speaker if a requirement by the rules of Parliament is that he should take responsibility once the report is tabled in Parliament,” said Mantashe.
Sisulu was also very popular with the opposition parties, who saw him as fair and non-partisan in the way he led Parliament.
The ANC and Parliament confirmed Sisulu’s resignation and wished him well. Spokesperson for the ANC in Parliament Moloto Mothapo said his boss, Stone Sizani, received Sisulu’s resignation on Thursday afternoon.
He sung his praises and thanked him for the excellence with which he served both the ANC and the people of South Africa. Sisulu is one of the most senior ANC members, serves in the party’s national executive and comes from the “struggle royalty” – an endearment term for the Sisulu and other prominent families of struggle icons.
He could not be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.