Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2003-09-11 Reporter: Jeremy Michaels

Barbed Questions Give Zuma a Torrid Time Rollercoaster Day



The Star

Date 2003-09-11


Jeremy Michaels

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Heated exchanges have erupted in parliament over the handling of the probe into Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

In a highly charged question-and-answer session in the National Assembly yesterday, Zuma again insisted that he had done nothing wrong.

Zuma responded bluntly to a question by DA MP Johannes Blanché about whether, in light of the allegations of corruption against him, he would relinquish his responsibilities for the moral regeneration campaign.

Zuma said: "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."

The strain of facing a second round of questions in parliament in as many days appeared to take its toll on Zuma. He had laughed his way through a similar interrogation in the National Council of Provinces the day before.

Appearing anxious at times, while breaking into laughter at others, Zuma's morale could have been lifted by boisterous support from ANC MPs.

Speaker Frene Ginwala had to intervene on several occasions, and at one stage ordered DA leader Tony Leon to sit down as his conduct was unacceptable.

Ginwala also ruled ANC chief whip Nathi Nhleko out of order when he tried to protect Zuma from a question which he argued was "irrelevant and out of order".

He was objecting to New National Party MP Boy Geldenhuys's question about whether the deputy president would have preferred to have been charged in a court of law in order to put his side of the case, instead of being denied the opportunity to do so by Bulelani Ngcuka, the national director of public prosecutions.

After Ginwala ruled that Nhleko's "irrelevant" objection was "not the issue", Zuma said he had "taken specific steps to deal with that matter, and that matter is before court".

He was referring to the case he had brought against Ngcuka in a bid to prove his innocence, which is currently before the Pretoria High Court.

Zuma laughed as African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe's question about the deputy president's relationship with his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was ruled out by Ginwala. "That is sub judice," she shouted.

Meanwhile, ACDP MP Louis Green criticised ethics committee chairperson Luwellyn Landers for refusing to comment on whether Zuma featured on the committee's agenda at a closed meeting yesterday.

Ginwala later told the house that Ngcuka's allegation that Zuma had not declared to parliament more than R1-million in gifts or loans had been referred to the ethics committee, which was looking into the matter.

With acknowledgements to Jeremy Michaels and The Star.