'Speak up in defence of constitution': DA wants urgent parly debate on Zuma

07 July 2021 - 14:52
DA leader John Steenhuisen has written to the National Assembly speaker, Thandi Modise, requesting parliament to reconvene for an urgent debate on the 'unfolding constitutional crisis' around the sentencing of former president Jacob Zuma.
DA leader John Steenhuisen has written to the National Assembly speaker, Thandi Modise, requesting parliament to reconvene for an urgent debate on the 'unfolding constitutional crisis' around the sentencing of former president Jacob Zuma.  
Image: Esa Alexander

DA leader John Steenhuisen has written to the National Assembly speaker, Thandi Modise, requesting parliament to reconvene for an urgent debate on the “unfolding constitutional crisis” around the sentencing of former president Jacob Zuma.  

In the debate, the DA wants police minister Bheki Cele to account and President Cyril Ramaphosa to “step up and speak up in defence of the constitution”.

This after Zuma was recently slapped with a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court following his failure to appear before the state capture inquiry earlier this year. The Constitutional Court had ordered Zuma to turn himself in within five days, failing which police minister Cele and national police chief Khehla Sitole would be obliged to order his arrest. 

Zuma, however, made another application to avoid jail. Cele then wrote to the ConCourt seeking clarity on whether to effect the arrest amid the ongoing court processes.

This was a move the DA heavily criticised.

“The contents of the frankly bizarre and unprecedented letter penned by Cele and sent to the Constitutional Court, in which he 'seeks clarity' before taking further action, needs to be explained in this debate. His obligations, in terms of the law and the court’s instruction, could not be any clearer.

“His defiance of this instruction places our democracy before a crossroads. Decisions taken — or not taken — around the arrest of Zuma to serve his 15-month sentence for contempt of court will have far-reaching implications,” said Steenhuisen. 

With all these developments, the principles of the Rule of Law and the primacy of the constitution which democracy was founded on — were at stake, he said.   

“It is critical that we reaffirm our commitment to upholding these principles, and this needs to start in the National Assembly.”

Steenhuisen said parliament had in recent years admitted to having failed in executing some of its duties, including holding its executive to account. This was something it sought to change in the future.

"President Ramaphosa needs to come out of hiding and draw his line in the sand
DA leader, John Steenhuisen 

“These words mean nothing if we are not prepared to call back parliament at a time of crisis to do its job. Each of the 400 members of the National Assembly swore an oath to serve the people of our country, and we need to start honouring that oath.” 

While Ramaphosa had not commented on the Zuma matter in his capacity as president of the country, Steenhuisen said it was critical for the nation to hear directly from him.

“It is unthinkable that the leader of a country can go missing at a time like this. He needs to step up and speak out in defence of our constitution and in defence of our independent judiciary, which finds itself increasingly under attack from elements within his own party. 

“His ongoing silence emboldens those elements and will make it harder for us to claw back lost ground,” the DA leader said. 

The DA also commented on the mass gathering of Zuma's supporters at his Nkandla home in contravention of the country's lockdown regulations.

“President Ramaphosa needs to come out of hiding and draw his line in the sand. The time for appeasement and conciliation between warring ANC factions has come and gone. Hoping to remain silent until it all blows over cannot be the strategy of a president. Both he and all the members of the National Assembly need to start doing their jobs,” said Steenhiusen.

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