DA turns up the heat on Nkandlagate

"The DA will continue to pursue steps to ensure that President Jacob Zuma and his government are held accountable," DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko told reporters in Cape Town.

"We will take immediate steps to eliminate these clear loopholes in order to prevent another Nkandlagate scandal."

The Nkandlagate scandal came to light after a string of reports revealed that over R200-million would be forked out for infrastructural improvements at the president's private residence at Nxamalala in rural Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

The project is chiefly financed by the public works department with the last payment reportedly taking place days before Zuma called for financial caution in light of current economic conditions – along with a pay freeze for senior public and private sector executives.

Chief to the DA's plans will be an attempt to modify legislation set out in the National Key Point Act of 1980, which Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi has repeatedly used to defend and conceal the details of the upgrade.

"The definition of a national key point needs to be clarified with set criteria provided in the legislation," Mazibuko said.

Public scrutiny
"This would ensure the minister would not be able, as is currently the case under section two, to declare for expediency only. It has to be proven to be necessary for national security."

Additionally there will be a call for more information on the location of all of South Africa's national key points as well as their expenses and running costs to be available for public scrutiny.

Mazibuko also pointed to perceived loopholes in the Executive Ethics Act, which has allowed Zuma to act "above the law".

"The president remains unaccountable to Parliament, where no oversight committee exists for the presidency. There are few significant mechanisms that enable [parliamentarians] to hold Zuma directly accountable in Parliament for these actions, other than through questions to the president," Mazibuko added.

The purpose of the Executive Ethics Act is to govern the conduct of members of the Cabinet, deputy ministers and members of provincial executive councils – as well as the president.

The DA believes Zuma may have violated the Act by using his position to enrich himself and other people.

In crisis
"While the economy is in crisis, and millions of South Africans find themselves unemployed and trapped in poverty, President Zuma's government is building a palace for him, as if he will be president for life," Mazibuko added.

Mazibuko also said the leading opposition party will continue to call for a debate in Parliament on the matter, by challenging acting speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo's decision to disallow a debate on Nkandla in the National Assembly at the next meeting of the Parliament Oversight Authority.

Additionally, Mazibuko said the DA would request that speaker Max Sisulu form an ad hoc committee of inquiry to "investigate the full extent of this fruitless expenditure", if the Standing Committee on Public Accounts turn down an initial request for an investigation into the Nkandla matter.

"The DA will not allow this to go unanswered. The steps we have proposed will go a long way toward preventing future abuse of public funds by the ANC for its party leaders," she said.

"Ensuring that this happens will send a clear message to President Zuma and his Cabinet ministers: Get your priorities right and put the interests of South Africa's people above your own."

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Nickolaus Bauer
Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend.

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