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The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) has commented for the first time, expressing shock and abhorrence at the manner in which its deputy president, Jo-Anne Downs, has been treated by the ANC in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.
Downs was sacked as chairman of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in the legislature and was replaced by National Democratic Convention (Nadeco) president Hawu Mbatha, who had defected from the ACDP.
The ANC's decision spurred the IFP, ACDP and DA to stage a walkout last week.
Steve Swart, ACDP spokesman on justice and constitutional affairs said they were disgusted by these recent developments.
"The provincial legislature removed Downs, notwithstanding the sterling work she has performed both as chairman and as a member of this committee since 1998," he said.
"To add insult to injury, Downs was then kicked off the committee altogether and has been replaced by a non-member, Hawu Mbatha, an ACDP defector."
He said what was even more deplorable was the fact that there was a huge skills shortage in the legislature, particularly on the public accounts committee.
"Downs has a masters degree in economics and public finance from the University of London and is eminently qualified to sit on and chair Scopa. She has been dubbed 'The Watchdog' for good reason," said Swart.
He claimed the ANC had removed Downs because she had exposed financial irregularities in provincial government departments.
"It is reminiscent of the way in which Gavin Woods was removed as chairman of the public accounts committee in the national Parliament when he lifted the lid on the arms deal scandal.
"We are also shocked to hear that Premier Sbu Ndebele publicly castigated Downs in the presence of other politicians last year.
"This is unheard of and totally unbecoming of any political leader, particularly a premier," he said.
Swart said Downs had sought legal advice because the ANC had ignored due processes in taking this step against her.
But ANC chief whip Cyril Xaba stood by their decision, saying: "Downs can go to court if she wants to. She will not succeed. If she wants to challenge the decision, she is free to do so, but she won't succeed."