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Zuma: It's my prerogative to act against Dlamini when time is right

Zuma says that expecting him to take action against Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini at this time would divert his focus from ensuring grants are paid.

FILE: Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. Picture: Cindy Archillies/EWN

CAPE TOWN – President Jacob Zuma says it’s “an impossible demand” on him as the head of state to act against Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini in the wake of the social grants crisis.

Zuma was inundated with questions about the saga in the National Assembly on Thursday.

He says while government regrets the situation it finds itself in, it’s his prerogative to act against the minister when the time is right.

Zuma says an expectation has been created that the South African Social Security Agency will not be able to pay social grants on 1 April.

“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.”

Zuma says expecting him to take action against Dlamini at this time would divert his focus from ensuring grants are paid.

“We’ll ensure that there’s never again any apprehension with regards to the payments of social grants to our people.”

Zuma says he does not want to act like a dictator who takes decisions that are not based on fact.

He then directed further explanations at 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.”

AVOIDING HARD QUESTIONS

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.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)

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