10 May 2017

South Africa: Gigaba's First Address to the Na As Finance Minister

At 16:16 Wednesday afternoon cheery cries of "Malibongwe!" rose from ANC benches, and a few groans from the opposition benches, as Malusi Gigaba stood up to address the National Assembly as finance minister for the first time.

He started to speak, but not a squeak could be heard over the chamber's sound system.

He tapped the microphone at his bench, but still no sound, apart from the stifled laughter from the opposition benches. He moved to the microphone at the next bench, which yielded the desired results.

He answered the question, posed by DA MP Alf Lees, and two of the follow-up questions without much drama.

Then EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu rose. "I'm not going to ask you about Buhle..."

But before he could finish his sentence, and while ANC MP's started shouting, presiding officer Thoko Didiza issued a stern "Order!" to prevent the further discussion of Gigaba's supposed former mistress, Buhle Mkhize, who ignited a twitter spat with Gigaba's wife, Norma, the day before.

"Leave the wife alone!" yelled Lindiwe Zulu, minister of small business, who seems always to be spoiling for a fight with the EFF.

"It's not about wife here! It's politics here!"

After order was restored Gigaba calmly answered Shivambu's question, which had nothing to do with his with or with Mkhize.

The next question to Gigaba was posed by the IFP's Mkhuleko Hlengwa, who wanted to know whom he invited to accompany him on his recent trip to America.

'Hayi suka wena'

In a follow-up question EFF MP Hlengiwe Hlophe asked: "Was it necessary to take your wife along?"

"Yes!" hissed ANC MP's.

Hlophe wanted to know what was the "wisdom" of his wife tagging along to the States.

"My wife did not attend any official meeting, anywhere," answered Gigaba.

"She went shopping!" yelled somebody in the DA benches.

Hlophe, not impressed with his answer, wanted another bite of the cherry. "When he's taking his wife to take selfies, it is taxpayers' money!"

Some more yelling ensued, with Zulu leading the charge.

"Honourable members, can you please not degenerate the house... honourable minister!" Didiza said, the last bit, addressed to Zulu, sharply.

Zulu was not done yet. "Hayi suka wena!" she said while Shivambu stood up to complain that Gigaba didn't answer the question.

Backbenches

DA MP David Maynier was up next with a follow-up question.

"Dance!" yelled some ANC MP's, referring to Maynier's characteristic way of moving around while he is speaking in the chamber.

He was less concerned with Gigaba's wife than with his advisor, the controversial Prof Chris Malikane. He wanted to know why Malikane accompanied him on the trip.

Gigaba said Maynier posed a similar question, which is later on the order paper, and he will answer it then.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen jumped up to protest Gigaba's non-answer, but Didiza didn't want anything of it.

During his complaint Steenhuisen referred to Malikane as "Mad Malikane".

Mmamoloko Kubayi, the new minister of energy, stood up for a point of order. She said Steenhuisen can't call Malikane mad, he is not there to defend himself.

"Decorum applies to everybody," Kubayi said.

"He's the one who's mad!" Zulu yelled.

Steenhuisen again complained to Didiza, but she wouldn't budge.

"This is wrong," he muttered as he sat down. "This is wrong, wrong, wrong."

During all of this Gigaba seemed unperturbed, glancing up at the press gallery every once in a while.

This spectacle was missed by Gigaba's predecessor, Pravin Gordhan.

Gordhan and Derek Hanekom, who also decided to stay on as MP after falling victim to President Jacob Zuma's late night cabinet guillotine, sat in the ANC backbenches as the sitting started, both with bowed heads.

Hanekom, seated closer to one of the pathways between the benches, was greeted by some MP's passing by, and had a long chat with ANC MP and former chief whip Dr Mathole Motshekga.

Gordhan sat still, expressionless, while he listened to the proceedings.

By 15:40 (the sitting started at 15:00) both left the house. Hanekom returned at 17:18.

News24

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