/ 12 March 2015

MPs reject Zuma’s proposal of November Q&A session

President Jacob Zuma laughs after EFF MPs were forced to leave the house.
President Jacob Zuma laughs after EFF MPs were forced to leave the house.

MPs serving on the programming committee have rejected President Jacob Zuma’s proposal to add another date to answer questions in the National Assembly. 

The committee has demanded that Zuma appears before the House by the end April instead of the proposed November 3 session.

MPs from both the ruling party and the opposition collectively and politely rejected the presidency’s suggested additional date of November 3 as “too far” and demanded that he appears between April 14 and April 30, depending on his diary. This is after the presidency last night released a statement that said the president has submitted an additional date to the Office of National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete.

The additional date is meant for Zuma to answer to questions outstanding from the August 21 sitting last year, which ended prematurely when Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs demanded that Zuma tells Parliament when he is going to pay back a portion of the taxpayers’ money used to upgrade his Nkandla home. 

ANC chief whip Stone Sizani told fellow MPs that the date must be proposed by the National Assembly’s programming committee. “It doesn’t matter if it is the 20th or whenever, it must be a date reached by ourselves. This is the platform for that particular purpose,” Sizani said.

“Yesterday, we told South Africans that we are going to meet and determine the dates which we want the president to come and answer questions in the House, and the first day we choose collectively will be the date.”

Given dates
EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu said it seemed like they were always given dates by the president instead of the committee telling Zuma when to appear before Parliament.

“I thought we were the ones who are holding the executive accountable. We have a programming committee that decides what the programme of parliament is. What are we? Are we just some colonised entity or puppets of the executive? We are told what should happen like we are just puppets,” Shivambu said. 

EFF’s national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said it was confusing that someone from the presidency was interviewed on radio in the morning giving dates, when it had been agreed that the dates would be confirmed in the programming committee meeting.

“I think the principle should be that we think the president, in terms of our programme, can come on these dates, then we take those to them. He can’t just dictate dates to us, announce them to the public and speak to us through the media,” said Ndlozi.

“April is the earliest time we can meet the president. The president must commit himself. He said if the National Assembly summoned him, he would come.”

Heard through the media
The United Democratic Movement’s Nqabayomzi Kwakwa said it was unfortunate they had heard about Zuma’s proposed dates in the media.

“It should have come to this forum as a proposed date so that we can actually talk about it and come up with a date as a collective. If we are looking at November, that is completely out of order, because one of the reasons we raised this with the Speaker was to try to make sure that we emphasise the urgency of the matter so we can finish the outstanding business of parliament as far as the questions are concerned.”

Compromise was the word of the day in the committee this morning as members resolved to take the proposed dates to the sitting of joint programming committee next week, which would then come up with a concrete date.

Zuma’s first oral session of the year in the National Assembly was delayed by more than an hour as MPs debated and heckled over questions that were left over during the chaotic sitting on August 21 last year.

The committee also resolved to look at scheduling a debate on the Democratic Alliance’s motion of no confidence in the president for next Tuesday, with Sizani saying “because we are raring to go on with it”.