If it becomes clear that President Jacob Zuma has misled MPs over spending on his Nkandla residence, the Democratic Alliance (DA) will move to have him impeached and removed from office.
"I absolutely will. Absolutely," DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko told reporters at Parliament on Wednesday.
She was responding to a question on what she would do if public protector Thuli Madonsela's yet-to-be-released report on the controversy over upgrades worth R206-million at Zuma's private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal contained findings that he had misled Parliament.
Mazibuko said the Constitution enabled the impeachment of a president through a motion tabled in Parliament. "It would require the putting together of an ad hoc committee to investigate whether or not the president deliberately misled the House. The critical word here is deliberately," she said.
In March, Zuma told Parliament he was never informed about the costs of renovations to his homestead. Mazibuko said she would have an opportunity, as the initial complainant, to read Madonsela's report in January.
She would also have an opportunity to make an input to the final document. Once this was tabled, "if it becomes clear that the president did deliberately mislead the House, then I will certainly move an impeachment against him".
Asked how easy this would be, she suggested the ANC would try to block such an attempt. "I certainly don't anticipate that it will be a picnic. I am quite sure that, given the ANC's record of placing the protection of the government and President Zuma above all things, that the ANC caucus in Parliament will be reluctant.
"But I think, in the face of a report by an independent Chapter Nine institution which, if it implicates the president in misleading the House, will be prima facie evidence, it'll be very hard, legally, for the ANC to argue that we cannot so much as investigate this matter."
Mazibuko said she was confident that "at the very least we'll be able to assemble an ad hoc committee to investigate … I cannot see how it can be legitimately blocked".
While this would not be easy, the rules and Constitution were on the DA's side. "And at the very least, Parliament has a duty to investigate if it is alleged that he did mislead us."
Questioned on the impeachment process, she said it was necessary to raise the motion, which would then appear on the parliamentary order paper. The establishment of an ad hoc multi-party committee to investigate the matter should be automatic, she said.
Asked if she believed Zuma knew what was going on at Nkandla, she said that while she did not know the answer, it was hard to believe he did not. "It's very, very unlikely you could come home… [during recess] and find 31 new houses being built around your house, and not ask yourself how much does this cost, and who is responsible for it … I find it very hard to believe … he had absolutely no questions about what was happening at his home," Mazibuko said.
Following the publication at the weekend by the Mail & Guardian of details from a leaked copy of Madonsela's provisional report, and amid mounting criticism of Zuma, the ANC on Tuesday called on her to release the full report.
"As the ANC, we … demand that the final report, not leaked snippets, is released to the public with immediate effect by the office of the public protector," ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters at the party's Luthuli House headquarters in Johannesburg. – Sapa