President Jacob Zuma has threatened not to return to parliament if opposition MPs continue to “abuse” him.
Yesterday MPs called Zuma a thief and described him as scum, corrupt and repugnant.
Grilled about the Nkandla scandal, SA Airways and the ailing economy, Zuma yesterday did not hide his irritation.
He asked MPs to stop insulting him and said he would not again answer questions in parliament if they did not.
“Each time I come here I am abused,” Zuma said while pleading with Speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete to bring the House to order.
“Instead of answering questions, I am called a criminal … a thief. This House has to do something,” said Zuma, adding that if parliament was not interested in him answering MPs’ questions “Don’t call me”.
The attacks on the president began soon after he mounted the podium.
EFF leader Julius Malema, pointing at Zuma, said members of his party were not prepared to listen to “this criminal”. He then led his party’s MPs out of the National Assembly.
”We will leave because we are not prepared to listen to this criminal. We will come back when the criminal is gone,” Malema said.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the president was not in the House to be ridiculed.
After the EFF and COPE walkedout, Zuma was embarrassed by DA MP David Maynier, who asked him to explain the government’s nine-point plan to rescue the economy.
The president was able to name only one of the nine points: agriculture.
Opposition MPs laughed as he struggled to answer the question.
That he had paid back on Monday the taxpayers’ money spent on non-security upgrades at his Nkandla home did not make life any easier for Zuma. Opposition MPs prevented him from answering questions for about 30 minutes. First up was COPE MP Willie Madisha, who said parliament should not “legitimise” someone who had broken his oath of office. He later led a walkout by his party.
Malema did not mince his words when it was his turn to speak. He told Speaker Mbete to stop Zuma answering questions and addressing parliament.
“If you allow him [to speak] you must note that you’re acting outside of the constitution. We are going to have to go to court to force you to ensure [discipline],” said Malema.
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane unsuccessfully tried to raise a point of order in defence of Zuma while Malema was speaking.
Malema called ANC MPs “a group of howlers” who had lost key metros in the recent elections “because of this attitude of howling”.
Mbete told Malema that he “can’t come and scream in the House”.
The DA’s John Steenhuisen said he was sympathetic to the views expressed by Malema but pleaded that Zuma be allowed to answer MPs’ questions.
“The man before us today is not befitting for the position he holds. As repugnant as I find his behaviour, we want answers,” said Steenhuisen. He said that despite Zuma’s “admission-of-guilt fine” in respect of Nkandla being paid, the National Assembly needed answers.
Zuma did eventually get to speak, responding to questions about the government’s nine-point plan, SAA and the “perceived” divisions in his government.
On SAA, Zuma defended chairman Dudu Myeni’s record, saying she was doing her best to turn the national carrier around.
Opposition parties rejected Zuma’s contention, the DA describing Myeni as “a corporate warlord” who could save SAA only by resigning.
Malema referred to her as “Dudu Myeni-Zuma” and accused her of being corrupt.
The DA’s Alf Lees said South Africa was dealing with a “corporate warlord who took over as the chief executive and whose only interest was the enrichment of herself, her family and her close cronies”.
Lees said that, according to a leaked copy of SAA’s 2015 income statement, the airline had been run at a loss of R4.67-billion, and Myeni had indicated that a further loss of R4-billion was now likely.
SAA’s losses just continued to pile up year after year, he said.
The IFP, COPE and the ACDP all said that Myeni’s reappointment as chairman of SAA was irrational.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the new SAA board had been given targets and that state guarantees to the airline would have to be repaid and were not bailouts.