Opinionista Mmusi Maimane 9 November 2014

Nkandla: Bigger than just Zuma paying

The final outcome of the Nkandla Ad Hoc Committee has a bearing on the future of Parliament’s role, Executive oversight and accountability, and the powers of State institutions supporting constitutional democracy, otherwise known as Chapter Nine institutions.

There is already a Draft Report of the Nkandla Ad Hoc Committee, which illegitimately relieves President Jacob Zuma of his responsibility to account for a scheme which resulted in the construction of his state-funded palace in rural KwaZulu-Natal. President Zuma has been let off the hook despite a Public Protector report which states that President Zuma must pay a reasonable percentage of the costs for features that are not security related. These are features like the so-called ‘fire pool’, kraals, amphitheatre and visitors’ centre, which amount to millions of Rands that could have resourced schools, hospitals and bettered the lives of the most vulnerable of our people.

Once the Draft Report is adopted by the stroke of the Ad Committee Chairperson and ANC Member of Parliament, Cedric Frolick’s pen, thus becoming a Final Report, this has far-reaching implications, which go far beyond the money that President Zuma must pay back to the people of South Africa, as per the Secure in Comfort report.

If the report is adopted, by what I deem to be an Ad Hoc Committee acting illegitimately, it sets a dangerous precedent, which is possibly even illegal. The Ad Hoc Committee, which is only made up of ANC deployees, is opening the door which allows the State to ignore future recommendations, findings and remedial actions of all Chapter Nine institutions, which are empowered by the highest law of the Republic – the Constitution.

The six Chapter Nine institutions play a variety of roles in ensuring that our constitutional democracy functions, is upheld and is protected. The institutions under Chapter Nine of the Constitution are the Public Protector, the Independent Electoral Commission, the Auditor-General, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.

For example, if the ANC, using its majority, is prepared to ignore the work of the Public Protector, what’s stopping from it ignoring the work of the IEC, when they disagree with the outcome of an election? This is the road that the ANC is leading South Africa on in order to protect one man – Number 1. The rules of the game being are changed to fit a political agenda.

Parliament’s function, other than formulating policy, is to exercise oversight of the Executive of the country. This is to ensure that the Executive, which the President heads, does not act in a manner that compromises the Republic and its people. Parliament, like the Judiciary, is to maintain a balance of powers. At the moment the Executive is disregarding these functions, and ANC MPs, especially those who sit on the Nkandla Ad Hoc Committee, are complicit in the watering down of Parliament’s function.

Academics, Lawson Naidoo and Richard Calland, described President Zuma’s and the Ad Hoc Committee’s actions and handling of the Nkandla debacle as “pushing modern South Africa towards its first constitutional crisis”.

At every possible juncture, the ANC has been more vociferous in its rejection of constitutional provides and the role and powers of the Public Protector, which has led me, with the support of the other Opposition Parties, to conclude that ANC MPs, and President Zuma, and acting in terms of a mandate from their head office, Luthuli House. This is even when this matter must be handled in terms of the the Constitution, the Rules of Parliament and all relevant legislation.

The stark reality is that our country’s Parliament and the Constitution have been placed on a block to be sacrificed by politics of the ANC. The Democratic Alliance with the support of like-minded Opposition parties and the people of South Africa will ensure that this matter is not sullied by politics, and that the only acceptable outcome is that of the President paying what owes because that is what the Public Protector, who is empowered by the Constitution, has concluded.

We must jealously defend and up hold our constitutional democracy. It is the water that gives life to a functioning Republic.

This is the ultimate test for our 20-year-old constitutional democracy, and failing is not an option. DM