Publication: Cape Times Issued: Date: 2003-09-11 Reporter: Jeremy Michaels

Zuma Squares Up to Probing Questions in National Assembly



Cape Times

Date 2003-09-11


Jeremy Michaels

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In a highly charged question-and-answer session in the national assembly about allegations of corruption, Deputy President Jacob Zuma has again insisted he has done no wrong.

Responding to a question from Johannes Blanche, of the Democratic Alliance, about whether, in light of the allegations against him, he would relinquish his responsibilities in the moral regeneration campaign, Zuma said yesterday: "As far as I am concerned, I know I have not engaged in any immoral activities and therefore do not see the need to relinquish my responsibilities in the moral regeneration movement."

Zuma had boisterous support from MPs in the benches of the ruling ANC.

Speaker Frene Ginwala had to intervene several times, shouting: "Order, honourable members." At one stage Ginwala ordered DA leader Tony Leon to sit down because his conduct was unacceptable.

She ruled ANC Chief Whip Nathi Nhleko out of order when he argued that a question put to Zuma by Boy Geldenhuys of the New National Party was "irrelevant and out of order".

Nhleko's argument that it was "irrelevant" was "not the issue", she said.

Geldenhuys had asked whether "the honourable deputy president would have preferred to have been charged in a court of law (so he could) put his side of the case".

Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka's decision not to prosecute had denied Zuma this opportunity.

Zuma said he had "taken specific steps to deal with that matter and that matter is before court". He was referring to the application he had brought before the Pretoria High Court.

He laughed as Ginwala ruled out African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Kenneth Meshoe's question about the deputy president's relationship with his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.

"That is sub judice," Ginwala said.

Leon asked Zuma whether he did not feel weakened by the corruption allegations and why he did not explain his innocence to the public.

Intervening, Ginwala said the deputy president was innocent until proved guilty and no one was "being asked to prove themselves innocent".

Zuma asked Leon to repeat the first part of his questions and finally said, to applause from the ANC benches: "The deputy president has not been weakened by anything because he has committed no crime and is therefore is not going to relinquish any position or responsibility - there is absolutely no need for that."

Meanwhile, Louis Green (ACDP) criticised Luwellyn Landers (ANC), chairman of the ethics committee, for refusing to answer a press question on whether Zuma had featured on the agenda for the committee's closed meeting yesterday morning.

"It appears as if the issue is being avoided - we do have a responsibility to answer the media's questions, especially if it's not classified information," Green said in an interview.

He said he was surprised by Landers's attitude as the chairman had asked committee members "not to make any statements on the issue, because he would make statements on behalf of the committee".

Ginwala told the house later that Ngcuka's allegation that Zuma might have received more than R1 million in gifts or loans had "been referred to the ethics committee and they are looking into it". The committee is to establish whether Zuma has declared such benefits.

With acknowledgements to Jeremy Michaels and the Cape Times.