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Fri Apr 18 10:28:49 SAST 2014

Motlanthe 'sidelined ' by Zuma

SIBONGAKONKE SHOBA | 14 April, 2013 00:01
The relationship between President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, is no longer as friendly as it was in this picture taken at the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung in December.
Image by: DANIEL BORN

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has sidelined his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, shutting him out of key matters of state.

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has sidelined his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, shutting him out of key matters of state.

Senior officials at the Union Buildings say Motlanthe, who lost the ANC presidential race to Zuma in December , was not taken into the president's confidence about former president Nelson Mandela's health or the recent killing of 13 South African soldiers in the Central African Republic.

Although the claim has been denied by presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj, the officials - who have close, insider knowledge of what goes on in the Union Buildings - say the relationship between Zuma and Motlanthe has cooled since the ANC's Mangaung conference. The president now informs his deputy about important national developments only on a "need-to-know basis".

"The two never hold scheduled one-on-one meetings ... They only meet twice a month in cabinet meetings," said one official, who asked not to be named.

"The deputy president is never consulted or informed about major issues. The deputy president knows nothing about the CAR issue or Mandela's health."

On Friday, Maharaj denied that Zuma had sidelined his deputy, but did not answer a direct question about whether the president had kept his deputy informed about developments in the CAR or Mandela's health.

"President Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe are in continuous and direct contact and maintain open lines of communication," Maharaj said.

"They have unimpeded access to each other at all times and have no need to go through any intermediary to contact each other. If and when they go through an intermediary, it is only to ensure that a proposed meeting suits the diaries of both the president and the deputy president. Any information to the contrary is simply untrue," he said.

Motlanthe's spokesman, Thabo Masebe, refused to answer specific questions about whether his boss received regular briefings from Zuma and insisted that relations between the two were not strained.

"The deputy president and the president have open and direct communication lines. They meet whenever it is necessary to discuss state and government matters," Masebe said.

"The deputy president is a member of the cabinet and he is involved in all government discussions and processes. He has never been left out of any government decisions."

But the Union Buildings officials insist that the relationship between Zuma and Motlanthe is at its lowest point and that Motlanthe is treated like an ordinary minister and accesses information only on a limited basis.

The constitution does not set out clearly defined responsibilities for the deputy president, saying only that whoever holds the post "must assist the president in the execution of the functions of government".

As a result, Zuma is not obliged to consult Motlanthe on major issues - just as Mandela, when he was in office, did not always consult his deputy, Thabo Mbeki.

According to insiders, Mbeki felt sidelined by Mandela.

During Mbeki's presidency, there were no scheduled meetings with Zuma, who was his deputy at the time. In these two cases, however, both the president and his deputy were members of the ANC's top six leadership, which received regular briefings on major national developments. But with Motlanthe not in the committee, he no longer enjoys that privilege.

A senior government official pointed out that when Motlanthe was the country's president after Mbeki's unceremonious recall from office in 2008, he regularly briefed the then deputy president, Baleka Mbete, on state matters.

"Maybe he [Zuma] is doing this because Mbeki never took him seriously [by keeping him informed on matters of state]. That is why he [Mbeki] sent him to Burundi and other areas," said the official, referring to Zuma spending much of the early period of his term as deputy president trying to negotiate a peace deal in the Great Lakes region.

The official said Zuma's office now made efforts to prevent Motlanthe getting extensive media coverage.

Another official added: "When he [Motlanthe] is acting president, the diary is organised so that no major event would take place during that period."

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Fri Apr 18 10:28:49 SAST 2014 ::