President Jacob Zuma and Speaker Baleka Mbete. File pictures: DoC and AP
President Jacob Zuma and Speaker Baleka Mbete. File pictures: DoC and AP

SA deserves an apology, not more spin: DA

By ANA Reporter Time of article published Apr 3, 2016

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Cape Town – It is crucial for Parliament to send a message to President Jacob Zuma and the people of South Africa that his breach of the Constitution will not be tolerated, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete’s press briefing at Parliament on Sunday afternoon on the Constitutional Court Nkandla judgment was a complete and utter waste of Parliament and the public’s time, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said afterwards.

Considering the scathing nature of the judgment against Zuma and Parliament unanimously delivered by the Constitutional Court last week, Mbete missed a prime opportunity to apologise to the nation and step down as Speaker, he said.

“Instead, she did her best to speak around the fact that by resolving to absolve President Zuma of compliance with the remedial action in [Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report] Secure in Comfort, instead of facilitating its enforcement as was expected by the public protector… the National Assembly breached its obligations under sections 55(2) and 181(3) of the Constitution.”

The DA agreed that the judgment had provided Parliament much-needed clarity; a procedural foundation for processing future reports by Chapter 9 institutions, and would hopefully help restore the institution’s reputation in the process. The DA looked forward to engaging Parliament’s various parties in committee and formalising this process.

“However, it is crucial that Parliament also sends a message to the president and the people of South Africa that his breach of the very Constitution he has sworn an oath to uphold and protect, will not be tolerated – and the best way to do so will be to vote with the DA in Tuesday’s impeachment motion in the National Assembly.

“Impeachment motions are a crucial check and balance that the architects of our Constitution believed were necessary for the safeguarding of the highest law in the land. Ms Mbete’s unfortunate suggestion today that she has ‘allowed’ this motion – when Parliament has a constitutional obligation to debate it – is further indication of her inflated sense of parliamentary authority and need to step down.”

Parliament’s reputation could not be restored under Mbete’s leadership and she should be held accountable for her and Parliament’s complicity in the Nkandla matter.

“Ms Mbete should resign, and we will consider tabling a further motion of no confidence in her should she not,” Steenhuisen said.

Speaking at the press briefing earlier, Mbete said “the National Assembly and broadly Parliament respects the judgment”.

“The judgment does provide guidance in terms of how the reports of the public protector and generally Chapter 9 institutions should be dealt with. This guidance is appreciated.

“All parties need to collectively reflect on the judgment. In this regard I will be asking leaders of political parties in Parliament for a meeting to discuss the judgment. We need to see how the judgment could be used to improve our mechanisms,” she said.

There had already been a request for a debate on the implications of the judgment for the National Assembly. There was also a proposal from the Inkatha Freedom Party for a multi-party committee to look into the matter.

“As we know the National Assembly will on Tuesday, 5 April, consider a motion by the Democratic Alliance for the removal of the president in terms of section 89 of the Constitution,” Mbete said.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court found against Zuma in the Nkandla matter, ruling that he breached the Constitution when he failed to heed Madonsela’s report on non-security improvements to his private Nkandla residence, and should reimburse the state an amount to be determined by National Treasury.

In its damning ruling, the court gave Zuma 105 days to pay back a portion of the money spent on the non-security upgrades to his residence. The total amount spent at taxpayers’ expense on his private residence at Nkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal came to more than R246 million.

In a unanimous judgment by a full bench of South Africa’s highest court, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said both Zuma and the National Assembly had failed in their duty to protect and uphold the country’s Constitution when they ignored Madonsela’s directives.

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