How is it that Nkandla is still the most topical issue in South Africa – even with the country at the centre of a major international scandal that led to FIFA president Sepp Blatter falling on his sword? Surely someone, somewhere in the ANC or government would have realised that this matter should no longer be kept alive and would have found a way to shut it down. Surely. But no, we are back on the Nkandla carousel. Thanks to Police Minister Nathi Nhleko and yet another Parliamentary ad hoc committee process, the merry-go-round is back in motion and in full speed. For the opposition, Nkandla is the gift that keeps on giving. For the ANC, Nkandla has turned foot shooting into an art form. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
The ANC ramming through a decision in Parliament to establish another ad hoc committee on Nkandla in Parliament is like someone deciding to remake that awful Borat movie with the same cast and storyline – replete with that vile neon green mankini. You just have to wonder whether self-immolation would not be a more desirable option.
There is actually a limit to how much a politician can assault public intelligence. That limit was reached last Thursday when Police Minister Nathi Nhleko presented a close to three-hour long treatise on the marriage of insult and injury. Nhleko took it upon himself to compile a report revising the findings of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on the upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence, and concluded that the president need not reimburse the state for benefits Madonsela concluded had been undue.
To come to this conclusion, Nhleko presented incredulous motivations and amateur videos to overturn the Public Protector’s findings on non-security features such as the swimming pool, cattle kraal, chicken run, visitor’s centre and amphitheatre. He has been hammered since then by opposition parties, civil society organisations and in the media. Nhleko’s report is destined to land before the courts, with possibly the Constitutional Court having to determine whether members of the executive have the powers to revise the Public Protector’s findings and recommendations.
It is quite apparent that Nhleko overstepped his mandate and powers in a desperate and transparent attempt to excuse his boss from having to pay back the state for the benefits Zuma and his family received at taxpayers’ costs.
It appears the ANC’s mission of self-sabotage is still incomplete.
Instead of trying to contain the damage, the ANC on Tuesday proposed the establishment of a new Parliamentary ad hoc committee to consider Nhleko’s report. After a sham of a process to consider Madonsela’s report on Nkandla, with ANC MPs blocking all attempts to interrogate the president and undermining the Public Protector’s investigation, the same cast of ANC MPs have been appointed to serve on the new ad hoc committee.
Before the ANC could drag the country into another façade over Nkandla, yet another ruckus ensued in the National Assembly over Nhleko’s report. ANC chief whip Stone Sizani proposed the establishment of an ad hoc committee comprising 14 voting members and 16 non-voting members of MPs from the ANC, Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and other smaller parties to consider Nhleko’s report. Sizani said the committee should submit a report to the House, with its findings and recommendations by 7 August.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane proposed an amendment to Sizani’s motion, saying that Zuma, Madonsela, Nhleko and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi should be summoned to appear before the committee. Maimane’s amendment was defeated in a vote with 104 MPs voting in favour and 192 against. Sizani’s motion was upheld with 192 votes in favour and 103 against.
And so the ANC’s Nkandla chorus line re-assembles to rubber stamp Nhleko’s report, shield Zuma and desecrate the image of the 103-year-old organisation.
It is difficult to understand how right-thinking ANC leaders would have consented to subjecting their organisation to another charade over Nkandla. There was a time when the ANC seemed to distancing itself from the absurdity of the “fire pool” and the like, and called for action against people who misled the public about the Nkandla upgrades. In March last year, following the release of Madonsela’s report, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega should face the consequences for lying about the “fire pool”.
In fact, he called for the then Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to act against Phiyega.
“Officials who have gone public with inaccurate information must be censored, like the information and description of the swimming pool as the fire pool, and the details given to explain this matter constitute a misrepresentation of facts. The minister of police is expected to take appropriate action in this regard.”
How is it, then, that it is now the Minister of Police who is advancing the same argument, with even extra zeal? How is it also that with all the legal and Constitutional expertise at the ANC’s disposal, the party is pursuing another farcical process in Parliament based on Nhleko’s illegitimate report?
Madonsela has pointed out in media interviews that Zuma has not spoken on the issue since the release of Nhleko’s report and that the legally sound way to contest her findings was for the president to take the matter to court. But as usual, Zuma has avoided getting his own hands dirty and is instead allowing his ministers, Parliament and the ANC to be publicly ravaged.
The ANC took a beating from opposition parties in Parliament for setting up another whitewash process. And they will continue to do so for as long as the matter is kept alive. Zuma is due to answer questions in Parliament on 18 June and this will not doubt be another tumultuous session with #paybackthemoney back on trend.
And now another campaign is being born outside Parliament. Expelled Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has called for a mass march to the Union Buildings in support of the Public Protector. The United Front has endorsed Vavi’s march and called for a mass protest outside Parliament on Zuma’s next appearance there. The United Front has also called for a coalition of civil society organisations to mount a legal challenge against Nhleko’s report. On Tuesday the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference appealed to Zuma “to show ethical leadership and take some responsibility for the runaway expenditure on the Nkandla project”.
Anti-Nkandla momentum is likely to build over the next few weeks as the ad hoc committee process unfolds. The ANC has battled under the yoke of the Nkandla scandal for five years now, and this contributed to the loss of support in last year’s elections. It continues to have a serious negative impact on the party’s image and undermines its anti-corruption and clean governance messaging.
Nkandla has turned the constitutional obligation of executive accountability into a joke.
The ANC continues to be held hostage to the Nkandla scandal, with nobody able to find a way to shut down the matter and shield the organisation from further damage. Nkandla has turned the ANC into its own worst enemy and the organisation will pay the price for that for years to come. DM
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine