Impeach Zuma, Lekota says
Cape Town – Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota’s call for impeachment proceedings to be started against President Jacob Zuma drew a sharp response from the ruling party in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Lekota told MPs the president’s office had, on Friday, “defied an order, by the Supreme Court of Appeal, to hand over the abbreviated transcripts of the tapes that permitted criminal charges to be dropped or withdrawn against himself”.
He was referring to the refusal to release transcripts of the secret recordings which were the basis of the decision to drop corruption, fraud and racketeering charges against Zuma in early 2009.
Lekota said Zuma was bound by his oath of office to obey, respect and uphold the Constitution.
“As his office and his lawyers act daily under his direct authority, the inescapable conclusion is that the president is illegally refusing to be bound by... the Constitution, which binds all persons to obey a judicial order, and there are no exceptions.
“Under the circumstances, Cope requests the Speaker that impeachment procedures against the president be instituted for defying a lawful judicial order. And I ask that all members of the House must support this plea,” Lekota said.
Rising on a point of order, African National Congress Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga called on Deputy Speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo to rule against Lekota’s statement.
“This serious allegation... should be brought by way of a substantive motion, not loose accusations against the president,” he said.
Mfeketo replied she would “come back” and look at what Lekota had said.
Standard of truth
“Definitely there are other members’ statements that we need to read and see if they are... factual,” she said.
Rising on a further point of order, Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini called for clarity on the matter, reminding Mfeketo that speaking truth did not necessarily apply to politicians.
“You said... that statements of members of this House must be factually accurate. I know of no precedent in any parliament in the history of mankind in which members of parliament are held up to the standard of truth.
“That is not a standard on which politics operate. If that is your ruling... it is a revolutionary ruling,” he said, to laughter from members.
Mfeketo responded: “I didn’t give any ruling.”
Motshekga then told her the rules of Parliament did not allow for “unsubstantiated allegations and the character assassination of the head of state”.
Lekota also called on all opposition parties to support the request to see to it that the legislature remains intact, and accountable.
Lekota, a former Defence Minister in the ANC government said the documents were being held in Zuma’s office by his lawyer, regardless of the order by the Supreme Court of Appeal that they be handed to the National Prosecuting Authority.
As a member of the legislature, Lekota said on Wednesday that it was the responsibility of every member to remember that they took an oath when they stepped into the National Assembly.
“We cannot be indifferent to our own duty”, said Lekota.
A meeting will be held on Monday with opposition parties to gain support in holding Zuma accountable. Lekota said they would table the matter before the meeting “to say all opposition parties must sponsor a substantive motion before the house, calling for the impeachment proceedings against the President.”
Lekota was one of several cabinet members resigned following Thabo Mbeki’s departure from office.
Lekota “served divorce papers” on the ANC in 2008 and formed a new political party Cope said the judiciary, would be a last resort in achieving the impeachment.
“I want this matter tabled, it must be tabled in this way, and we are going to ask all opposition parties to do that,” he said.
Zuma has been under pressure from all sides, including a scandal over improvements to his private home, provocation from suspended youth leader Julius Malema and labour unrest, as the party enters the final phases of nomination processes in preparation for the party’s elective conference.
Former president Mbeki last week said the ANC’s current leadership was losing its ability to provide direction to South Africa.
“I... [am] deeply troubled by a feeling of great unease that our beloved motherland is losing its sense of direction, and that we are allowing ourselves to progress towards a costly disaster,” he said.
He was delivering the Oliver Tambo memorial lecture at the University of Fort Hare, in the Eastern Cape. – Nampa-Sapa