The top three Nkandla flip-flops

NEWS ANALYSIS

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Monday said the ANC would not, in fact, be arranging a media visit to Nkandla to show the country the truth about President Jacob Zuma's homestead.

The decision to invite South Africa into Nkandla, Mantashe said, had been reversed "because it became quite clear when we wanted to do that there were processes that were outstanding", including investigations by the Special Investigating Unit, possibly the Hawks, and a report by Zuma to Parliament. "Our view in hindsight, we took a view … [to] not interfere with that space," he said.


Mantashe first said the ANC would arrange a visit to Nkandla in the interests of transparency before the end of last week.

"As we had committed when the report of the [internal government Nkandla investigation] was released, we will be inviting members of the media on a visit to the Prestige Project in Nkandla in the next week so that we can talk to the real issues beyond the report," Mantashe said on March 20.

But after the ANC's national executive committee met this past weekend, the ANC said various actions it could take, or demands it could make of Zuma, would amount to disrespect for constitutional institutions.

The reversal is the latest in a long line of flip-flops from the ANC, Zuma and various Cabinet ministers when it comes to Nkandla – and cancelling a media visit ranks well down the list. Some of the most notable include:

  • The president's bond documents are (not) available for inspection In November 

Zuma told Parliament that a bank funded his family's work on Nkandla. In an emotional session he defended himself fiercely against Nkandla allegations. "I am still paying a bond on the first phase of my home," said Zuma.

The presidency followed that up with a written media statement acknowledging requests for proof that the bond exists. "The evidence will be readily made available to an authorised agency or institution empowered by the law of the land," said presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj.

After she, like many media organisations, could find no solid proof of the existence of such a bond, public protector Thuli Madonsela pointed Zuma to the statement, making it clear that her office surely qualifies.

"You will respectfully agree with me that this includes the public protector," Madonsela says she told Zuma, after multiple requests for the documents.

Zuma responded that the bond predated his taking office as president, so he could not see how the documents could be of interest in Madonsela's investigation.

"Accordingly, I hold the view that the disclosure you seek would be unnecessary," Zuma wrote to Madonsela.

  • The top-secret report that wasn't

In January 2013, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi released the results of the interministerial task team investigation into Nkandla, colloquially known as the government Nkandla report. The top finding: Zuma was neither culpable nor involved in the Nkandla scandal, and had not received personal benefit.

The actual report, however, was classified top-secret; so replete with security-sensitive information that it could not even be released in a redacted form.

The secrecy was strictly maintained. Parliament dealt with the report in a closed committee that handles matters of national security. Madonsela, during her investigation, was only given sight of the document and not allowed to make a copy.

But in December 2013 the ANC, by way of Mantashe, asked that the full report be released. Government announced just days later that it would release the report, and that was duly done. No adequate explanation was ever provided for the classification of the report, or for the change of heart.

  • Key point. No, ministerial handbook. No, actually, neither

The legal basis for the government spending, as it turned out nearly R250-million on Nkandla, has changed often enough to strain the definition of "flip-flop".

Initially the government said the work was done in terms of the apartheid-era National Key Points Act (NKPA), which also demanded secrecy regarding the improvements. That was reversed, if only in part, after it was pointed out that the NKPA would require Zuma to foot most of the bill, or for the money spent by the state to be drawn from a special account.

At other points Nxesi, as the de facto spokesperson on Nkandla, said the upgrades had been in terms of the Ministerial Handbook, a supposedly secret document that outlines the perks available to members of Cabinet. But the document had been published previously by the Mail & Guardian, and made no mention of presidential security. It did clearly say that state spending on the security of ministers at their private residences was capped at R100 000.

With little achieved other than making the point that the Nkandla bill was over 2 000 times more than what was considered adequate for the tier of national leaders, that argument was also abandoned.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Phillip De Wet
Guest Author

Related stories

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

Mbalula’s war with military vets belies the Prasa disaster

The transport minister uses humour, which his targets don’t find funny, to survive in tough times or to divert attention from a problem.

How graft arrests came together

Learning from its failure to turn the Schabir Shaik conviction into one for Jacob Zuma, the state is now building an effective system for catching thieves. Khaya Koko, Sabelo Skiti and Paddy Harper take a look behind the scenes at how law enforcement agencies have started creating consequences for the corrupt

Infrastructure key to economic recovery — Ramaphosa

The governing party wants localisation at the centre of its infrastructure-led strategy

Renewables will light up the darkness

More than 11 800MW of new electricity capacity from independent power producers will come online in 2022, giving Eskom space to do more maintenance on its unreliable infrastructure

Richard Calland: South Africa needs a Roosevelt style of leadership

President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to hold ‘fireside chats’ and have more power and institutional muscle around him, writes Richard Calland
Advertising

Subscribers only

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

More top stories

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

The alleged crook’s “health emergency” — if that is what it is — shows up the flaws, either in our health system or in our leadership as a whole

SANDF hid R200m expenditure on ‘Covid’ drug it can’t use

Military health officials are puzzled by the defence department importing a drug that has not been approved for treating coronavirus symptoms from Cuba
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday