Chuckling Zuma sidesteps Gupta questions
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Parliament – President Jacob Zuma on Thursday batted away questions on the Gupta family’s alleged meddling in ministerial appointments with a chuckle and a vague denial.
Zuma asked by opposition leader Mmusi Maimane about Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas’s confirmation that he was offered the post of finance minister by the wealthy Indian family before Nhlanhla Nene was fired in December.
“My question Mr President: Whether the Gupta family has ever offered anybody a Cabinet position in your term of office as president or is Minister Jonas in fact lying because if in fact he is or he is not, is the president willing to take accountability for the decision and resign in front of the people of South Africa?”
Zuma laughed and said: “Honourable Speaker I appointed Jonas as a deputy minister, that is what I offered Jonas. I never offered Jonas the ministry, that is why he is deputy minister.
“If Jonas says he was offered by the Guptas, I think you will be well-placed to ask the Guptas or Jonas. Don’t ask me. Where do I come in? I have no business with that, absolutely no business.”
“Ask the people who are said by Jonas offered him… I am in charge of government, I appoint in terms of the Constitution. There is no minister here who was ever appointed by the Guptas, or by anybody else. Ministers who are here were appointed by me.”
Maimane, who on Thursday morning laid criminal charges against Zuma’s son Duduzane and the Gupta family over Jonas’s statement, was thrown out of the chamber soon afterwards when he challenged the president on his reasons for removing Nene from the key post.
Zuma was asked by Inkatha Freedom Party MP Sibongile Nkomo whether he was influenced by anybody in his decision to axe Nene.
“If a minister has to be shifted or deployed, there are reasons that lead to that. There is no action in terms of removal and replacing or appointing ministers that come without reasons why that is done. There were reasons why Minister Nene had to be redeployed.
“Those reasons are the reasons of government, and once Nene was removed you needed to replace that and that is what I did, and this arises out of what government is doing and what the thinking and decisions of government are. If there can be any influence in how government does things it can only be the ruling party, that will not necessarily come to tell you do this and do that.
“Before Nene left, the rand was on the down slope,” he added.
“Secondly it is not the first time that the markets react when a minister is either put or taken away. There was a decision taken, very well considered on why we are taking Nene and where we are sending him to.”
Maimane rose on a point of order, and was told off by Speaker Baleka Mbete for rising while Zuma was still on his feet.
“The president has come here to tell South Africans that the rand was already on the decline, which is not true,” Maimane said, after Zuma said he had completed his answer.
As Maimane went on to add that South Africans deserved to be told the truth, Mbete interrupted him and told him to take his seat. He continued to speak and she said she had to ask him to leave the House “because you refuse to co-operate”.
The entire DA caucus then rose to leave the chamber.
African News Agency
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