Thursday, 27 October 2016

'Jacob Zuma living in a world of his own'

President Jacob Zuma, who said he could not stop the prosecution of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan because his interference would drive the country "closer to [becoming] a banana republic", has an "incredible ability to ignore the public mood".


This is the conclusion of political analyst Ralph Mathekga, speaking after Zuma's question-and-answer session in the National Council of Provinces yesterday.

Zuma's biggest problem was his inability to gauge the "public mood" in light of the latest developments and scandals, Mathekga said, adding that his replies were framed as if nothing untoward had occurred in the past few weeks.

"He dismissed people asking questions as people with an agenda. For him, it doesn't seem as if the conditions have changed."

Five questions dominated the session. Here's how Zuma answered them:

On the fraud charges against Gordhan:
"I don't think we should be discussing details of that matter when it is in court. I must also say the matter was never discussed with [NPA head Shaun] Abrahams ... never, never, never. The meeting ... was between the president and the security cluster discussing a totally different matter, not the matter of any arrest ... I think if this president was to interfere in any matter, either Chapter 9 institutions or other institutions, then [South Africa] would be closer to [becoming] a banana republic."

The Sunday Times reported this week that Abrahams met Zuma and other ANC leaders at Luthuli House in Johannesburg, the party's national head office, a day before Gordhan was charged. Both men say the meeting related to the violent student unrest.
'Jacob Zuma living in a world of his own'
On the credit-ratings agencies:
"We take the agencies and their work very seriously because it is another mechanism through which governments take stock of the work they do and ensure continuous improvements in governance.

"While ratings agencies are an important feature in the world economy, they do not necessarily impact on agreements between countries." Zuma said a Brics rating agency has been established because, he said, the established ratings agencies do not rate developed countries even when they have problems.

On interdicting the release of former public protector Thuli Madonsela's report on state capture:
"I interdicted it because she was going to issue a report she hasn't talked to me, or asked me questions [about], and it is within my right. It is within the act of the public protector that those who are to be questioned have the right to [do] what I've done. There's nothing wrong."

Madonsela said she had sent Zuma several questions after meeting him and his lawyers but they did not respond .

On #FeesMustFall:
"I'm not sure about this question . the issue of free education is being attended [to]. I'm sure honourable members know that last year I established a commission which is working on it and it will report at a given time. It is important to us. It must be based on very clear and scientific investigation.

"People are about to write exams ... in life you negotiate, you give and take. I just hope that this is not going to interfere with education."

Zuma has been criticised for his handling of the fees protests. Students were angered by his failure to listen to their concerns at a funding conference earlier this month. Zuma read a prepared speech at the conference and then left.

On the reappointment of Dudu Myeni as SAA chairman, and the possibility of the airline's privatisation:
"SAA is going to do effective work, particularly with the calibre of board members that have been elected.

"There has been a lot of work that has gone into SAA with the full participation of the Treasury to ensure that SAA turns around.

"There has been an improvement from very deep financial problems.

"The government is optimistic that the new collective appointed to the board will achieve the necessary turnaround that the company needs, guided by the shareholder, the minister of finance."

He ruled out privatising SAA.

"I'm not looking at selling the company.

"I'm looking at this company getting back to being a company that must be viable and work. Now, SAA has been in trouble all the time. It's not in trouble today." - Additional reporting by TMG Digital

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