SUNDAY TIMES - Zuma feisty in the National Assembly despite a touch of flu
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Sunday Times News By BIANCA CAPAZORIO, 2017-03-19 00:00:00.0

Zuma feisty in the National Assembly despite a touch of flu

President Jacob Zuma answering questions in parliament this week about the grants crisis.
Image: GCIS

If President Jacob Zuma was worried about the Constitutional Court ruling on social grants when he appeared in the National Assembly on Thursday, he wasn't letting it show.

He was unapologetic for inaction against Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and other members of his cabinet.

Zuma and his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, greeted each other warmly, despite reports last month that they were not on speaking terms. Zuma, who told the house he had a touch of the flu, shared his throat sweets with Ramaphosa.

His responses to questions were without enthusiasm. In his unprepared responses to follow-up questions Zuma was fired up. He was backed by a noisy ANC caucus and ANC Women's League supporters in the gallery.

The DA's strategy to have leader Mmusi Maimane ask the party's follow-up questions created tension between the two. Zuma and Maimane bickered even after the Speaker, Baleka Mbete, reminded them not to address each other directly.

Maimane asked whether Dlamini would be held accountable for the grants crisis. Zuma responded furiously, with finger-pointing: "I thought the date we are talking about has not yet arrived. So why punish somebody before anything has happened? It's a funny democracy, a funny legal system that a person, before committing a crime, must then be judged and punished.

You are a democrat. I thought you stick to democracy and the rule of law. The rule of law does not say punish a person because you suspect the person is going to commit a crime. It's almost like the law of the jungle."

The EFF did not attend the sitting and Zuma took on those opposition MPs present with vigour and disdain.

Responding to the IFP's Sibongile Nkomo on how Dlamini and Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi were evaluated, Zuma said it was an "impossible demand" to evaluate Dlamini on "something that has not happened".

"Equally, with minister Muthambi, there has been a report, as far as I know, and I think she said she is taking the report on review," he said. He said that if he acted while the matter was being reviewed "then you'll say this president is a dictator".

He laughed at Freedom Front Plus MP Corné Mulder and told him, "opposition parties must stand up and say something even if I have answered the question".

His prepared response to IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe's question about grants focused on the importance of social grants and the lessons to be learned from "the current unfortunate episode". But when she asked about rumours in the ANC caucus that Cash Paymaster Systems was funding the campaign of "your preferred candidate", Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him, he asked, "Is this a political exercise or are you asking a question?"

On Maimane's question about the involvement of his adviser Michael Hulley in the social grants matter, he said: "If you expect me to answer questions on behalf of other people simply because I know them, you are asking an impossible thing."