South Africa

South Africa

Site visit and live tweets: DA prepares for Nkandla Wednesday

Site visit and live tweets: DA prepares for Nkandla Wednesday

When the Democratic Alliance went to Nkandla in 2012 to lay charges against President Jacob Zuma, they were met by hostile ANC members. This week, not only will the party be welcomed into Zuma's house along with other parliamentarians, they may even live tweet the event. But as another committee looks set to exonerate the president, the opposition could be gearing for a court battle. By GREG NICOLSON.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) announced on Sunday it will continue to participate in the ad hoc committee established to consider Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s report into the upgrades at Nkandla. It also plans to challenge the report’s exoneration of President Jacob Zuma’s role in the multi-million rand ‘security’, state-sponsored upgrades to his private home and demand the Public Protector’s recommendations be enforced.

While the DA will not be party to the rubber-stamping of the police minister’s report, it will participate on the committee as part of a robust undertaking to have the report invalidated,” said a party statement. “To this end the DA’s participation on the committee in no way condones the report by the minister of police which we contend is fraught with credibility issues, at odds with constitutional principles and is therefore irrational.”

Nhleko released his report into the security upgrades at Zuma’s Nkandla home in May after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela last year recommended the president, with the assistance of National Treasury and the SAPS, take steps to determine the cost of non-security upgrades, such as the amphitheatre, cattle kraal, swimming pool and visitors’ centre, and for Zuma to pay a reasonable percentage of those costs.

Nhleko’s report followed the findings and recommendations of an ad hoc committee in Parliament last year, which opposition parties abandoned. It was one of five reports on Nkandla and Nhleko was ridiculed by opposition parties for his explanations of how certain aspects of the upgrades were defended as security features and for claiming that the investigations might have necessitated another security analysis and further upgrades due to the amount of information about the president’s residence that is now public.

Is it a new investigation? Is it a review? Because it doesn’t review any report, it just makes comments. I never asked him to do anything like that,” said Madonsela after Nhleko’s report was released. She was highly critical of the report’s findings and said her report tasked Nhleko to determine how much the non-security upgrades costed. The police minister has said his report was not a response to Madonsela’s but based only on the ad hoc committee’s findings.

In a press conference with party leaders on Sunday, DA leader Mmusi Maimane was quoted encouraging ANC members to debate the issue. “None of us want to compromise the president’s security. What we are desperate to understand is the political accountability. The ANC could kick the ball backwards and forwards, and have a few people disagreeing… The president has unduly benefited quite clearly.” Last month, MP and ANC Gauteng chairman, Paul Mashatile, publicly said he doesn’t agree with Nhleko’s report.

On Wednesday, the new ad hoc committee will make a site visit to Nkandla. The DA said it plans to use the visit as part of its campaign to have Nhleko’s report rejected. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have called it wasteful and unnecessary after the Public Protector has already made findings that Zuma should pay back some of the money spent. The EFF is not participating in the committee and won’t make the trip to Zuma’s home. The media will also be absent after a request by Media24 to accompany the committee was denied by chairperson Cedric Frolick last week, but the DA have said they will try to tweet from Nkandla.

In its submission to the ad hoc committee, the DA argues that aspects of the president’s report to Parliament on Nkandla are “irrational, unconstitutional and unlawful” and claims Zuma’s assistance to the Public Protector has been “grudging and incomplete”. It quotes extensively from the Schippers judgment, from Democratic Alliance v the SABC and Others, which outlined the powers of the Public Protector. While finding the Public Protector’s recommendations are not necessarily binding, Schippers said a decision to reject her findings must not be irrational. The party argues the president did not meet Schippers’ test of rationality for rejecting the findings. The role of the Public Protector will be further clarified in court soon.

It is our submission that, as a result of his conflicted position, the minister inevitably produced a report that failed rigorously to address itself to his mandate. The report unsurprisingly and inevitably exonerated the president from any liability to pay any money,” reads the DA submission. The party says the report is “amateurish, facile and superficial” (it even quoted Wikipedia), cherry-picks evidence, looks only at the swimming pool etc., which the Public Protector criticised, and ignores other aspects of the upgrades, while it irrationally contradicts other reports.

At the recent ANC, SACP, Cosatu and SA National Civic Organisation alliance summit, Nkandla was discussed with the alliance calling on Parliament to conclude its work speedily and for government and the courts to conclude all criminal and disciplinary matters against those responsible for inflating the costs and scope of the upgrades. “Contrary to disinformation propagated in much of the commercial media, the report of the Public Protector found explicitly that no undue influence was brought to bear by the president nor was there any indication of corruption on his part. Suggestions to the contrary are part of an attempt to delegitimise the head of state and our democratically elected government,” read the alliance summit declaration.

The ad hoc committee on the police minister’s report is likely to follow the ANC line and like past committees, approve the report exonerating the president. The DA, however, have suggested they might take the issue to court to force the state to act on Madonsela’s recommendations, as they did regarding the Public Protector’s report on the SABC.

Should the committee fail to reject the report, and ultimately absolve the president of any liability, we will be left with no option but to pursue all available avenues to see that the Public Protector’s findings are upheld,” the party said on Sunday. DM

Photo: Helen Zille, then leader of the DA, speaks to the media after police officials blocked her attempts to walk near South African President Jacob Zuma’s home in Nkandla November 4, 2012. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

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