President Jacob Zuma responds to questions from Members of Parliament in the National Assembly Chamber, Cape Town. 17 March 2016, Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

Parliament - President Jacob Zuma told Parliament on Thursday that he was firmly in charge of the government and in appointing members of the executive.

This is despite the growing list of people coming out with evidence that they were offered top cabinet posts by the Guptas.

In his answer session in Parliament, Zuma denied that he had ever met the Guptas to discuss the job offer for Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas to replace his then boss, Nhlanhla Nene.

Zuma said he was the only leader empowered by the constitution to hire and fire ministers.

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But his reply elicited angry responses from opposition benches, with DA members demanding more answers from him. After a heated exchange between DA leader Mmusi Maimane and Speaker Baleka Mbete over the demand by Maimane for Zuma to come clean on the Guptas, the Speaker threw out the DA leader.

He was followed by his entire caucus, with DA members chanting that Zuma was protecting the Guptas.

The beginning of Zuma’s question and answer session was marred by constant interjections by DA MPs to come clean on the Guptas. Zuma told Maimane before he was thrown out that he, as the president, had the power to hire and fire people. He said that if Jonas has admitted he was offered the job by the Guptas, the DA leader should ask either Jonas or the Guptas.

“I am in charge of the government, I appoint ministers,” said Zuma.

“There is no minister who is here who was appointed by the Guptas or anybody else. Ministers who are here were appointed by me,” said Zuma.

Zuma stood his ground, refusing to budge on follow-up questions from United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa and IFP MP Sibongile Nkomo on the alleged influence the Guptas have on him.

He said it was his prerogative to hire and fire ministers. If he consulted, it would be the ruling party that he would consult on the change in his cabinet.

Zuma repeated his claim earlier this year that his axing of Nene did not crash the rand. He said the currency was on a downward slope when he fired Nene in December.

He said there were reasons why Nene had to be redeployed to the New Development Bank. But despite Zuma repeating the story of Nene being “redeployed” to the Brics bank, the former finance minister is twiddling his thumbs at home nearly four months after being ousted from the Treasury.

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But while Zuma came through the Q and A session in Parliament relatively unscathed, a far tougher inquiry awaits him at this weekend’s meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC).

The ANC NEC meets in Irene, south of Pretoria, on Friday and Saturday.

The atmosphere could not be worse for Zuma, after the SACP on Thursday spilled the beans on another cabinet reshuffle next week, allegedly happening at the behest of the Gupta family.

The bombshell allegation sets the scene for a battle royal in the NEC meeting between the SACP and other ANC members concerned about the issue of “state capture” and those loyal to Zuma who will seek to defend him against the accusation.

The SACP claimed minutes before Zuma stood to respond to questions in the National Assembly that Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, a senior SACP member, was the target of the latest intended reshuffle.

This is over his attempts to secure cheaper steel prices for local manufacturers – a position which was of concern to the Guptas because they intended acquiring a stake in steelmaker ArcelorMittal.

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Allthough the SACP has denied that its raising of the issue of state capture was an attack on Zuma, its position is a contradiction of Zuma’s claim on Thursday that he had “no business” with the allegation by Jonas.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe had earlier urged anyone in the government who had been subjected to attempts to influence them to come forward and, within hours, Public Service and Administration Minister Ngoako Ramathlodi obliged, revealing he had been invited to dinner by the Guptas while he was mineral resources minister, which he refused.

Meanwhile, former ANC MP and ex-chairman of the ethics committee in Parliament, Ben Turok, has joined the list of senior politicians and civil-society groups calling for Zuma to step down. Ex-president FW de Klerk called for an end to state capture in the country, saying it reverses the democratic gains made 22 years ago.

The Zuma government had opened the floodgates of corruption wide open, he said.

Political Bureau