ANC members at the Nkandla ad hoc parliamentary committee.
The special parliamentary committee's work to process the public protector's report on the security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home was further delayed when the majority of MPs revealed they still need to read the report.
This follows the delay by the ruling ANC in announcing its deployees to the ad hoc committee which was established on April 9 to consider Zuma's response to Thuli Madonsela's Nkandla report. The ANC announced the names of its deployees on April 22, eight days before the April 30 deadline.
Opposition parties have accused the ANC of employing delay tactics to avoid holding Zuma to account for the saga.
During the one-hour long meeting, ANC MPs listed a number of excuses on why the committee could not proceed with its work on Thursday. These ranged from them needing time to read the "thick, huge report" and saying that they have been preoccupied with electioneering and hadn't read the report.
ANC MP Buti Manamela said they had not known that they would be deployed to the committee and had not gone through the document in detail.
"We know how huge those documents are, in particular the public protector's report," said Manamela.
This had not stopped Manamela from attacking the same public protector and the report while addressing a Young Communist League's rally in Rustenburg in March.
Manamela also took issue with having to process the report during the elections campaigning period, saying for the ANC, this period was not for doing Parliament work, but that all MPs should be focused on electioneering.
"We must also remember that we are in an elections campaign. We have left our elections campaign to come and participate in this programme, and I think that needs to be understood," he said on Thursday.
"Parliament was in recess. It should not be considered as normal working days of Parliament. Some of us had to be dragged from elections campaign … [unlike] DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko [who] has been here in Cape Town making statement after statement on this report, while we were out there campaigning," said Manamela.
"I think we really need to consider that and the fact that if you are saying we need to balance between the elections campaign, which is what we are supposed to be all doing, and this work … I think it's going to be very difficult for us to be forced to make that choice."
He said the work of the committee was not an elections campaign for them. The ANC has previously accused the opposition parties of using the Nkandla report as an electioneering tool.
"We have not determined whether the time allocated by the speaker is enough or not, based on the fact that we have not gone through the documents in their entirety as the ANC."
The Freedom Front Plus's Corne Mulder disagreed, saying election campaigning was irrelevant to the process.
"Nothing around this table should be about the elections or about our campaigning outside during the election.
"This is about the integrity of Parliament, the integrity of the Constitution and the chapter nine institutions. Our election campaigning is irrelevant," said Mulder.
"We are politicians here, I am not a lawyer here, and I am not a man off the street. I am a politician and election campaigning is a very serious business and to say the elections campaigning is irrelevant is not a nice thing to say. I'm trying to put it as nice as possible," retorted ANC MP, Cecil Burgess.
He said for his own reasons he hadn't read the public protector's report and needed an opportunity to do so.
"If I am to participate effectively on this committee, I want to have an opportunity to read this document, and I want to read all documents and I won't be able to read it tonight and come back tomorrow and tell you that I read it, because I would be lying.
"Give me an opportunity to read this stuff, I think on Monday I might, I see it's a thick document, that's serious reading," said Burgess.
Mazibuko had proposed that those MPs who had not read the report be given "several hours or even overnight" to go through the documents.
She said considering that Zuma's response, which included a copy of Madonsela's report, was published on April 9, MPs had had ample time to read through them
She also suggested that in the interest of time, it was perfectly legitimate of the committee to work on Friday, which is an ordinary working day and also possible to work over the weekend to consider the matter.
The opposition parties also proposed that the committee's lifespan be extended because it might need to call to give testimony.
These would include Zuma, Madonsela and possibly the Special investigative Unit (SIU).
The IFP's Narend Singh said the party would want Zuma, "who wrote the letter explaining why he thinks we should wait for the SIU report, to be given an opportunity to come and explain himself and expand on why he thinks it's necessary for this committee to wait for the SIU report before we proceed with whatever we need to do".
Singh said they would also like to invite the SIU to explain its process because Zuma's letter didn't include a letter from the SIU setting out time-frames on when they expect to complete their particular report.
The DA's James Selfe agreed that among the people who should be invited to appear before the committee should be Madonsela herself, [as] it would be good for the committee to have a benefit of her testimony in this matter as well as other people who are referred to in the report.