Malema: I'm in court, but leave me and tackle Zuma

Julius Malema. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Julius Malema. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema has ordered his troops in Parliament to ensure President Jacob Zuma does not get away with avoiding questions about reimbursing the taxpayer when he appears in the National Assembly on Thursday.

Malema, whose corruption, racketeering and fraud trial got under way in the high court in Polokwane on Monday but was adjourned until Tuesday, is unlikely to be present when Zuma answers questions in the National Assembly.

While this might come as some relief to Zuma, other EFF MPs were given orders to be consistently tough on the state president, whose home in Nkandla was given a R246-million facelift by the government.

Public protector Thuli Madonsela’s investigation found that while it was justified to provide adequate security for the head of state, some of the upgrades in Nkandla were not security related and that Zuma and his family benefited from that.

Don’t abandon the electorate
Malema told his fellow MPs to ensure the EFF was well represented in Parliament on Thursday instead of staying by his side at court. “You can’t abandon the mandate of 1.1-million people who voted for the EFF to come and support an individual,” he said in his address to supporters outside court.

“They [the voters] will expect you there when Zuma comes on Thursday. Whether Malema is there or not, the EFF must represent us well.”

Since last year August the EFF has ensured that its MPs ask Zuma to “pay back the money” spent on Nkandla, but the president’s answers – viewed as insufficient by the party – has led to disruptions when the president appeared in Parliament.

In an effort to manage the questions session better, Parliament’s presiding officers told the EFF to submit the question on the order paper if they wanted it answered.

This week the EFF did just that.
The last question on the order paper would require Zuma to say when he is planning to “pay back the money used for the construction of nonsecurity features such as the visitors’ centre, the amphitheatre, the cattle kraal and chicken run and the swimming pool, as directed by the public protector in paragraphs 11.1.1 and 11.1.2 of her report”.

Madonsela recommended that Zuma take steps, with the assistance of the National Treasury and the South African Police Service, to determine the amount he should repay.

Curbing disruptions
This week’s question and answer session comes after Parliament’s adoption of new rules to curb disruptions that have become a routine since EFF became the second biggest opposition party in the national legislature. The rules make provision for MPs to be physically removed if they refuse to obey a presiding officer’s order to leave the chamber. The MPs would, however, be removed by the parliamentary protection service and not the police.

Last week EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu said the rules should be disregarded because an MP could not be removed from the house for something they have said. Shivambu argued that MPs should be removed only when they threatened violence or damaged property.

Political analyst Daniel Silke told the Mail & Guardian this week that posing the Nkandla question was unlikely to result in a satisfactory answer.

“We’ll see more of the same coming from the president and he will, of course, be hoping that the new rules of Parliament will prevent any attack on him within the chamber. This will be an opportunity for him to see if these new rules actually work, but I don’t expect that he will bend to the demands of the EFF.”

Zuma will have to answer Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane’s question on what the government is doing to ensure a separation of party and state powers.

The president will also need to explain to ANC MP Bongani Bongo what is meant by African solutions that South Africa has been championing to resolve the continent’s problems.

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