Sihle Zikalala tells MPs water tanker was delivered to his La Mercy home after DA councillor went MIA
What was meant to be a dignified joint sitting of the National Council of Provinces and the National Assembly almost descended into chaos as MPs hurled insults at KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala over the recent water tanker scandal.
Zikalala was called a 'liar' and 'water thief' as he addressed MPs who had gathered to listen to President Cyril Ramaphosa who called the special sitting on Tuesday to outline government’s response to the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
The floods have claimed more than 400 lives and left many displaced.
After taking to the podium Zikalala, who was among other politicians to address the house, started his speech by telling MPs that he would adhere to Ramaphosa’s instruction to pledge solidarity with the people “and not use the platform for grandstanding”.
He then went on to use the platform to explain that he felt “compelled to just clarify a few issues”.
“The fact is that in La Mercy I have been supporting that community for more than a year, including organising water. Post that incident, I have provided them with four static tankers, but ... why I did that is that there is a councillor but the councillor is missing in action — councillor [Geoff] Pullan from the DA,” Zikalala continued.
“The leader of the opposition [John Steenhuisen] — one of the things we must do, we must stop discrimination. The leader of the opposition in this house came to the very same ward  and chose to go to upmarket areas of Umdloti and ignored the people of La Mercy.
“Worse than that, he did not visit those people in halls where they are accommodated.”
Zikalala was referring to an incident where a water tanker, which was meant for desperate citizens, was delivered to his personal residence in La Mercy while communities queued for water. While he has since apologised, he has been accused of stealing the water and putting himself ahead of poor KZN citizens.
One of the MPs who called Zikalala a liar was Steenhuisen: “Madam speaker, he is lying and that’s the truth. I went to Inanda and to Tongaat. The premier is lying.”
National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula asked Steenhuisen to withdraw the 'unparliamentary language' to which he responded: “The premier is not telling the truth. This man who steals water is not telling the truth.”
EFF leader Julius Malema screamed, “utshontsha amanzi (he stole water)”.
While Mapisa-Nqakula was trying to call the MPs to order for speaking over one another and hurling insults at Zikalala, another member shouted, “uthontsha amanzi, isela (he stole water. He is a thief)”.
The DA’s Natasha Mazzone stood up and said it was a fact that Zikalala went on SABC radio and “admitted to stealing water”.
This prompted Mapisa-Nqakula to discipline the members. “No man,” she said.
Police minister Bheki Cele told MPs: “People died, can we come back to this house and talk about the matter at hand.”
An irritated Mapisa-Nqakula agreed. “We are messing up a very good debate. You are behaving like young ones now. We are adults and leaders, please stop it.”
As Zikalala continued with his speech, he was interrupted by DA’s Dean Macpherson who accused him of lip-syncing the words “f*ck you”.
Zikalala denied cursing in parliament and continued with his address.
The NFP’s Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam expressed disappointment at his colleagues' conduct.
“I am very disappointed that with 435 people losing their lives, we come here today and we easily forget that these people are still reeling in pain and shock with the loss of their loved ones,” he said.
“We come here today and want to grandstand, insult and attack each other. Surely this is not the platform for it.”
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