POLITICAL WEEK AHEAD: Jacob Zuma in the spotlight with appearance at state-capture commission
State of the nation address to be debated in parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday
The spotlight will be on the state-capture commission on Monday and whether former president Jacob Zuma will at last comply with a Constitutional Court order to appear before the commission.
Also this week MPs are due to debate President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address (Sona) on Tuesday and Wednesday. He is due to respond to the debate on Thursday. Delivering the Sona speech in parliament last Thursday, Ramaphosa said government’s priorities are to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, address economic and employment challenges and also to confront corruption.
The state-capture commission has catapulted corruption to the fore in SA amid revelations of grand-scale looting of parastatals. The commission, headed by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, has heard evidence from witnesses placing Zuma at the heart of state capture.
But Zuma, who established the commission in 2018, is digging his heels in. He said last week that the commission and the Constitutional Court, which ordered him to appear before Zondo, are politicised and that he will not co-operate, even if this means going to prison.
Zuma is already facing two charges for refusing to appear before the commission to answer questions, and he may face a third if he does not appear before the commission on Monday.
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule is due to appear in court on Friday after being charged in a corruption case linked to a R255m asbestos contract signed when he was Free State premier. He faces 21 charges of corruption and fraud and also theft and money laundering.
The ANC national executive committee (NEC), the highest decision making body of the party between conferences, held its first ordinary sitting of the year at the weekend, and there will probably be a press conference early this week. The NEC was expected to discuss Magashule and the issue of leaders stepping down once formally charged.
In August 2020, the NEC resolved that members formally charged with corruption or other serious crimes must “immediately step aside from all leadership positions in the ANC, legislatures or other government structures pending the finalisation of their cases”. But the resolution has not been implemented.
The ANC’s handling of the matter threatens to derail Ramaphosa’s reform and anti-corruption agenda.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), which provides short-term relief to workers when they become unemployed or cannot work, is due to hold talks this week with social partners on the extension to the Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) benefits. The discussions will take place at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).
Ramaphosa said during Sona that the UIF will be extending Covid-Ters benefits to March 2021, for those sectors that had not been able to operate.
As part of government’s R500bn Covid-19 relief package meant to cushion workers laid off or had their salaries reduced, government introduced the Ters in March 2020 with the aim of providing wage benefits to employees via the UIF.
On Tuesday in parliament, the portfolio committee on communications will be briefed by the department on the report of the project team on the implementation of broadcast digital migration. Ramaphosa announced during the Sona that SA will complete its delayed digital migration process by March 2022. If the project is completed by then, it will be almost two decades after the government first announced plans to leave analogue behind.
Digital migration is crucial for freeing up more broadband spectrum — the radio waves by which information is transmitted — with the aim of boosting connectivity, potentially driving down the cost to communicate.
The portfolio committee on justice and correctional services will be briefed by the acting solicitor-general on the turnaround strategy of the state attorney office. The office, which handles civil litigation for the state, has been plagued by poor performance, corruption and a decentralised, uncoordinated structure.
On Wednesday, the select committee on public enterprises and communication will hear from embattled state-owned arms manufacturer Denel on its financial and legal challenges related to a court order to pay outstanding employee’s salaries.
On the same day, state power utility Eskom will brief the portfolio committee on public enterprises on the effect of coal prices, load-shedding, electricity tariffs and escalating costs of Medupi and Kusile.
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