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Maimane’s Zuma thief taunt ruled out of order

DA leader Mmusi Maimane File picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba

DA leader Mmusi Maimane File picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba

Published May 4, 2016

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Parliament – Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane was ruled out of order in Parliament on Wednesday for repeatedly mocking President Jacob Zuma as a thief and “criminal accused” in the debate on the presidency’s budget vote, in a reference to the high court ruling that the president should face 783 charges withdrawn seven years ago.

“Thief, goes against the rules and I will now ask the Honourable Maimane to withdraw,” Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli said after taking advice on the speech that sent the ANC rushing to Zuma’s defence.

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Read: Maimane calls Zuma an accused criminal in Parly

Maimane withdrew but it did not stop the acrimony, as DA chief whip John Steenhuisen was on his feet soon afterwards when DA MP Sej Motau also fell foul of the rules for calling ruling party MPs Zuma’s “praise singers… idiots and …zombies”.

It was common for ANC MPs, Steenhuisen said, to call the opposition racist and it went unpunished.

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Maimane’s gloves-off speech and an earlier fracas in which the Economic Freedom Fighters were thrown out of the chamber yet again, overshadowed a lacklustre speech in which the president listed the state’s achievements and priorities.

The EFF were booted out after they argued relentlessly that Zuma should not be allowed to speak, but instead face parliamentary sanction for having been found by the Constitutional Court to have breached the law by failing to heed the Public Protector’s directive to refund the state for misspending on his Nkandla home.

Then came Maimane, who hammered on the more recent North Gauteng High Court ruling that added to the president’s woes by setting aside the 2009 decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to withdraw criminal charges stemming from the 1999 arms deal against Zuma.

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He referred to Zuma as the ANC’s “accused number one”, “looter in chief” and the main beneficiary of the arms acquisition programme, from which the charges in question in that judgment stem.

Tsenoli pointed out: “The president has not been found guilty of those charges. Honourable Maimane you cannot call somebody a criminal who has not been convicted.”

Steenhuisen countered in vain that Maimane had parliamentary privilege, but Tsenoli told the DA to respect the ruling and challenge it later if they chose.

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Maimane replied: “We will challenge, I withdraw,” and resumed his speech.

“And when we vote on the budget, the people of this country will see, once again, that Mr Zuma and today’s ANC are one and the same. They will see, once again, how far this once mighty liberation movement has fallen. They will see how the ANC protects its looter-in-chief. And make no mistake, this man stole from all of us.”

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu objected: “As we sit here President Zuma is not accused… He has not been found by any court anywhere to have looted anything at all. We can’t be sitting in this house and insulting the president of the republic.”

Steenhuisen countered that the DA’s comments were informed by court rulings against Zuma, leading to a heated debate across the floor as to whether last Friday’s judgment had effectively reinstated the charges that dogged Zuma to the steps of the presidency.

The court ruled that the decision by the NPA to withdraw the charges shortly before the 2009 national elections had been irrational and that Zuma should face the charges of fraud, racketeering and corruption. The implications of the judgment remain moot, but the DA and academics say that short of appealing the judgment, the NPA must now indict the president.

“In his judgment on Friday, Judge Ledwaba said that … the NPA Head at the time, Mokotedi Mpshe, had ‘ignored the importance of his oath of office’ in withdrawing the charges, and that his decision was irrational. He also said that Mpshe found himself ‘under pressure’ to discontinue the prosecution against Mr Zuma,” Maimane said.

“Under pressure from whom exactly? I think we all know the answer.”

Motau was equally scathing, saying the only speech Zuma could decently have offered the house would have begun with an apology for treating the nation like fools and concluded with his resignation.

Both Zuma and the NPA have yet to say how they plan to respond to the high court ruling, which comes three months before the country goes to the polls for municipal elections.

African News Agency

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