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Zuma: There’s no crisis around grant payments

With just two weeks to go before social grants are due to be paid, no agreement has been signed with a distributor.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN – President Jacob Zuma says there is no crisis around the social grants and action cannot be taken against Minister Bathabile Dlamini as it’s not yet 1 April.

With just two weeks to go before social grants are due to be paid, no agreement has been signed with a distributor.

Zuma has been answering questions in the National Assembly.

The Democratic Alliance’s Mmusi Maimane asked why Zuma had not removed the minister.

“Cosatu has called for her to be removed, South Africans are calling for her to be removed. And I’m one of those saying she must be removed. Do you not believe that it’s time for you to act and remove Minister Dlamini from Cabinet?”

Zuma responded by saying no crime had been committed.

“To act as if 1 April has come and pensioners’ grants have not been given, and therefore you must take action, I’m saying it’s a funny democracy that says punish a person before they commit a mistake.”

He’s rejected calls to remove Dlamini, saying he will not respond to what he describes as “pity calls”.

“I don’t understand why you think this president must evaluate as soon as there is a commotion. It can’t be.”

WATCH: Zuma slams DA's 'funny democracy'

Zuma then turned his attention to Maimane.

“You are a democrat, I thought you’d stick to democracy and the rule of law. The rule of law doesn’t say you punish a person because you suspect that person is going to commit a crime. That’s not the rule of law… it’s almost like the rule of the jungle. I get onto you as soon as I suspect you’re about to commit a crime, then you’re punished - no sir - I disagree [because] there is no crisis.”

Maimane then asked President Zuma about his referral to a funny democracy.

“A sitting finance minister is doing their job, they get fired for a pretentious job and a number of years later, a minister who is not doing their job gets protected by you. And you come to Parliament to defend the minister who is completely incompetent. It can’t be… That’s funny democracy.”

Maimane also asked Zuma about legal adviser Michael Hulley’s alleged involvement in securing a deal in the Sassa debacle, but Zuma fired back. “I’m answering you on this matter, whatever Hulley did I don’t even know the arrangements.”

The President has at the same time defended another one of his ministers, saying he cannot take action against her as the facts still need to be established and she hasn’t been found guilty of any wrongdoing.

There have been calls for Minister Dlamini to be removed due to the Sassa debacle and Communication Minister Faith Muthambi for the SABC crisis.

The President says the grants will be delivered, so why should Dlamini be removed.

“Once we do so, you’re going to say this president is a dictator - he just decides even if there are no facts.”

He also says minister Muthambi is still dealing with the report on the SABC and no action is needed.

“There has been a report as far as I know and I think she has said that she is taking the report on review. We don’t know what will be the final outcome. Why then take action on a minister who is still looking at what perhaps she will not agree with?”

RADICAL TRANSFORMATION

Zuma again reinforced government’s message that there needs to be radical economic transformation.

“As we mentioned in the State of the Nation Address, income inequality and economic exclusion of the majority of our people from the mainstream of the economy, cannot be sustained and has to be attended to seriously.”

Zuma was asked about unemployment and why job creation is slow.

He answered by saying there had been major progress since 1994.

“The country has moved forward and, yes, we have a good story to tell. I think if you make a comparison between South Africa and any other country on the continent, you are not going to find a country that could identify the progress we have made in 20 years.”

Zuma is also expected to answer questions on whether he intends promoting new MP and former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe to his Cabinet.

NO DISRUPTIONS

Earlier, African National Congress (ANC) chief whip Jackson Mthembu appealed for President Zuma to be allowed to answer questions without disruption in the house.

Mthembu’s appeal follows the chaos that erupted during Zuma’s State of the Nation Address in February, when the Economic Freedom Fighters MPs were manhandled out of the chamber after making multiple objections.

Mthembu said it’s a requirement of the Constitution that the President come and answer MPs’ questions.

“Indeed we have acted as Parliament to give effect to that constitutional injunction of holding the executive and the head of the executive accountable. I just hope there’ll be no party in the house today that will try and block the President from answering questions – because it will then make a mockery of what we do here”

The Economic Freedom Fighters are not attending Wednesday’s proceedings.

The EFF’s position is that Zuma is an illegitimate president as the Constitutional Court found he broke his oath of office over the Nkandla scandal.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

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