Parliamentary Showdown Looms Over Ngcuka
The African National Congress and opposition parties are gearing up for a fight in parliament over whether to rebuke prosecutions boss Bulelani Ngcuka for fingering Deputy President Jacob Zuma on corruption charges.
The ANC made it clear that it was intent on rapping Ngcuka, a senior figure, over the knuckles for infringing on Zuma's rights by making a public statement that the deputy president had a prima facie case of corruption to answer.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), Independent Democrats (ID), Inkatha Freedom Party(IFP) and African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) lined up to disagree with the ruling party's position that parliament should express its disapproval of Ngcuka's statement made at a press conference last August.
The showdown is set to play itself out in the National Assembly's ad hoc committee on Wednesday, which has been considering Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana's report on a complaint by Zuma that Ngcuka had trampled on his rights.
The committee is due to finalise its report on Wednesday after two weeks of intense debate on Mushwana's report and recommendations that parliament take urgent steps to hold Ngcuka accountable for infringing on Zuma's rights.
Tensions in the committee ran high on Tuesday - at one stage proceedings descended into a near-fracas, prompting committee chairperson Ismail Vadi (ANC) to reprimand members. Several ANC MPs on the committee on Tuesday insisted that Ngcuka had indeed violated Zuma's rights. But opposition MPs said they could not agree because the committee had not heard Ngcuka's side of the story despite the fact that he had made a request to do so.
A heated debate ensued over a key recommendation of the committee, a draft of which suggests that parliament "expresses its disapproval of the statement by the National Director of Public Prosecutions which infringed on the Deputy President's constitutional right to human dignity, thereby causing him to be improperly prejudiced".
ANC MP Mabel Mentor dismissed opposition concerns about the clause, saying any parliament, "even of a banana republic", would agree with the ANC's view.
IFP Chief Whip Koos van der Merwe wrote to Vadi, the committee chairman, to register his party's objection to the clause.
ID leader Patricia de Lille did not think parliament was in a position "to express such a strong view".
DA MP Sheila Camerer said she agreed Ngcuka may have violated Zuma's rights but "we have not been able to judge whether it was a justifiable infringement," she said.
ACDP MP Steve Swart said his party was "opposed to that disapproval" in the draft resolutions.
"We can't take a view without having heard Advocate Ngcuka," he said.
New National Party MP Carol Johnson said her party agreed with the clause even though it had not heard Ngcuka's story. "If the committee called Ngcuka, then it would have to call Mushwana as well."
With acknowledgements to Jeremy Michaels and the Pretoria News.