Disrupting SONA 2015 not the way to go: DA

JANUARY 15, 2015

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane, on Thursday instructed Members of Parliament (MPs) from his party to abide by the rules of Parliament when President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) next month.

This is in contrast to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by Julius Malema, who have threatened to disrupt the President’s address in a bid to get him to say when he will “pay back the money” they believe he owes relating to the multimillion rand security upgrades at his Nkandla home in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The EFF’s planned disruption of the State of the Nation may be good for high drama, but it does not help to restore Parliament’s role as the apex of our democracy’s mechanisms of accountability,” Maimane told journalists in a media briefing in Cape Town.

“That is what we need to achieve, and by ignoring the rules and disrupting the House, Parliament’s capacity to do its job is eroded, not strengthened.

“The EFF has made it clear in the past that he will not follow parliament’s rules, writing them off as being “created by colonialists and imperialists”, when in fact these rules were rewritten by the new democratic dispensation and published in 1997.

“Destroying the institution of Parliament in no way strengthens its role.”

Maimane said that according to rule 10 of the National Assembly, the business of parliament – all of its proceedings, which includes oral questions – are suspended at the end of each annual session and only commences again once SONA has happened.

“The fact that President Zuma has failed to answer questions in parliament is a huge problem that must be addressed in the programming committee. This is the right forum to do this according to Parliament’s rules,” he said.

“The DA, through our Chief Whip, has written to Speaker Baleka Mbete to convene parliament’s programming committee prior to the State of the Nation address so that we can be provided with at least 5 concrete dates for the President to answer questions in Parliament.

“The Speaker has a constitutional responsibility to do this – she should be protecting Parliament’s mandate and not that of the President.

“As long as we work through our institutions to ensure accountability, President Zuma has his day coming.”

He said that the DA will see President Zuma in court soon for the 700 charges of corruption he has been running from for five years.

“And we will use Parliament to make sure he accounts for Nkandla, for the Hawks, for SARS, for the NPA, for the SABC and all the institutions he is trying to break down to escape accountability,” Maimane said.

Disruption will be seen as intimidation

On Wednesday, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete said Malema’s threat to put questions to Zuma during his Sona could be seen as intimidation.

In a letter to Malema, she warns him against falling foul of the laws around the powers, privileges and immunities of Parliament.

Mbete says her office and the Presidency are working on dates for Zuma to come and answer MPs’ questions.

In terms of Parliament’s rules, the president is obliged to do so four times a year.

Distracting from the real issues facing South Africans

At the same briefing he said that any disruption of Zuma’s Sona next month will detract from the burning issues confronting the country such as Eskom’s load shedding and youth unemployment.

“And the power cuts are just beginning. The load-shedding schedule from February has all the makings of an economic shutdown,” he said.

“We are losing the potential to create jobs with every passing month that those in power fail to act on the real solutions and changes that South Africans need.

 “That is why we are witnessing the rise of nyaope, and crime amongst young people in our communities. It is because hopelessness is rising. Unemployment is rising.

“Now more than ever South Africans need the institutions of democracy to work for us.”

He also described what he called a hostile takeover of “nearly all of our democracy’s most important institutions… by those who want to capture the state for their own gain”.

“From political interference in the crime-fighting work of the Hawks, to the politically-driven purges of senior management at SARS, to vote-rigging allegations against the IEC, to a leaderless National Prosecuting Authority – we are witnessing the capture of our institutions by powerful political interests,” Maimane claimed.

“That is why Parliament, now more than ever, needs to work. We must do the job the people elected us to do by holding the President accountable for the state of the nation.

“We are shedding jobs with every month of load-shedding. But President Zuma instead blames load-shedding on Apartheid, when a company in which the ANC holds shares through their front Chancellor House, made R38 billion from boilers for a new power station that has still not been built.

“Our neighbourhoods are being over-run by druglords, our family and friends are struggling to find work, and our communities are going without basic services.

“The fact is South Africans want President Zuma to come to Parliament and account for the true state of our nation.

“Our nation is in crisis and Parliament must perform its constitutional role of holding those in power accountable for it.”