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Zuma dodges call for inquiry into grants debacle

President Jacob Zuma also deflected questions about whether he planned to take action against Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has dodged a call for a commission of inquiry into the social grants debacle, and has distanced himself from allegations that his lawyer was involved in talks about the payments contract.

Zuma also deflected questions about whether he planned to take action against Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, saying it’s “a funny democracy” to punish someone if you suspect they’re about to commit a crime.

WATCH: #Sassa: Zuma slams DA’s ‘funny democracy’

Zuma used the same argument to defend the African National Congress (ANC) deploying former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe to Parliament despite allegations against him contained in the Public Protector’s State of Capture report.

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Liezl van der Merwe got a “no” from President Zuma when she asked for an inquiry into the grant payments contract and illegal deductions from accounts a year ago.

“So I’m asking you now, will you also take personal responsibility for this crisis, will you now establish a commission of inquiry into this dodgy deal – there’s a rumour in the ANC caucus that CPS is paying for Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s campaign and I want you to comment on that.”

Zuma said she brought no evidence to back her claims.

“We are not saying these companies did not syphon money, I don’t know about that. If you know, those are facts that you’ve got to support – to say these are the things that have happened and, therefore, we need investigation. I don’t think you can include that about the political statement of people who are being supported because they’re going to elections, you actually dilute your question.”

Zuma’s denied knowledge of his lawyer Michael Hulley’s alleged involvement in the grants contract.

ACTION AGAINST DLAMINI?

Regarding Dlamini, Zuma added: “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 turned to DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

“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.”

However, Maimane fired back.

“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.”

But Zuma would have none of it.

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

INQUIRY INTO PRASA

The President has denied strong-arming MPs into making a U-turn on setting up a parliamentary inquiry into the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

Maimane posed the question. He also wanted to know whether the African National Congress (ANC) had received a bribe to award a locomotive tender.

President Zuma swatted away claims the ANC has been on the receiving end of bribes in the awarding of tenders at Prasa.

“As an ANC President I don’t know about that. Those are allegations that need to be investigated to prove indeed whether that happened.”

Zuma said he does not think it would be right to establish a parliamentary inquiry before the outcome of the ongoing forensic investigation is know.

“If there will be a need for an inquiry, I’m sure we will agree at a given time.”

Zuma said the Prasa investigation could lead to court action - making a parliamentary inquiry, unnecessary.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

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