Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-09-16 Reporter: Wyndham Hartley

Mbeki to Face Mps on Ngcuka Row



Business Day

Date 2003-09-16


Wyndham Hartley

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Cape Town - President Thabo Mbeki's low-key response to the row between Deputy President Jacob Zuma and head of national prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka will be in the spotlight on Thursday when he takes questions in the National Assembly.

MPs are certain to try to provoke a response from Mbeki, who until now has refused to be dragged into the furore despite numerous challenges.

Ngcuka has said that he will not prosecute Zuma, in spite of having a prima facie case, while Ngcuka has been fingered as a spy for the apartheid regime.

On Thursday Mbeki faces six questions in the assembly, and to each question some four impromptu follow-ups are allowed.

One question goes directly to the heart of the Zuma/Ngcuka controversy.

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Tony Leon will ask Mbeki whether in the light of the effect of the corruption allegations against the deputy president on the presidency, government and the country as a whole he has asked or intends to ask the deputy president to "step down until the allegations are refuted and (he) is exonerated of any wrongdoing, if not why not; if so what are the details?"

Leon will also ask whether Mbeki intends to relieve Zuma of responsibility for the moral regeneration campaign, and if not what factors led him to such a conclusion.

Last week Zuma told the National Council of Provinces and the National Assembly there was no need for him to stand down as deputy president because he had not been charged with anything and had no case to face.

He also said during a reply on the moral regeneration campaign that he would continue as patron of the campaign because he had done nothing immoral.

Mbeki will also come under fire for SA's policy on Zimbabwe, particularly after that country's only independent daily, Daily News, was prevented by soldiers and police from publishing last week. The paper had not registered in terms of new press laws. President Robert Mugabe gave Mbeki an undertaking that these laws would be changed.

New National Party MP Boy Geldenhuys will ask Mbeki about the possibility of the release of three South Africans serving life sentences in Zimbabwe, and whether or not he will discuss this issue with Mugabe.

Theresa Millin of the Independent African Movement will ask the president if the possibility of new elections in Zimbabwe was discussed with US President George Bush, and whether any deadlines or target dates were discussed during their meeting.

On both of these questions the follow-ups by other opposition parties can be expected to probe government's policies towards Zimbabwe.

With acknowledgements to Wyndham Hartley and the Business Day.