/ 28 April 2014

ANC shuts down parliamentary Nkandla committee

Lindiwe Mazibuko said the DA was not calling for a full investigation but a series of inputs from people related to the tabled documents.
Lindiwe Mazibuko said the DA was not calling for a full investigation but a series of inputs from people related to the tabled documents.

The ANC in Parliament has shut down the ad hoc committee that was established to process President Jacob Zuma's response to public protector Thuli Madonsela's investigation into the multimillion-rand upgrades at his private home in Nkandla.

The ruling party wants the post-May 7 Parliament to deal with the matter, citing a lack of time in the current term of Parliament as the reason for not proceeding with the committee's work.

This parliamentary term ends at midnight on May 6.

"We agree with all the things you say you want us to do, but we do not think it is reasonable to expect this Parliament to do justice to the work that you are asking us to do. Let all that work be done by the fifth Parliament," said ANC MP Buti Manamela.

The special committee met for only the second time on Monday. The meeting began at noon and ANC and opposition MPs fought over the committee's terms of reference for almost the next two hours.

When the ANC seemed to be on the back foot, its MPs requested a 45-minute break to caucus.

Motion to suspend
The ruling party then returned with a motion to suspend the work of the committee and deferring it to the next Parliament.

ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude read out a motion: "The term of the fourth Parliament expires in a few days. The time available for the committee to complete its work is clearly insufficient. Related investigations are as yet incomplete and the matter before the ad hoc committee is of extreme importance and therefore requires sufficient time to consider thoroughly to do justice to it. Accordingly, the ANC proposes that this matter be referred to the fifth Parliament for consideration."

The opposition parties rejected this proposal. They accused the ANC of lacking the will to do what has to be done, shielding Zuma from accountability and deliberately obfuscating to avoid the constitutional responsibility of MPs.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), which had tabled its proposal earlier in the day, wanted the public protector, the author/s of the security cluster report, ministers of police and defence or the national commissioner of the police and chief of the South African National Defence Force, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head, a spokesperson for the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution and the spokespersons of any other relevant organisation or entity or corporation to be called to give evidence to the ad hoc committee.

Call for input
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said that her party was not calling for a full investigation but a series of inputs from people related to the tabled documents, adding that this would enable the committee to make recommendations to the National Assembly.

"The ANC says this committee must do no work, simply throw its hands in the air and simply say that it has no time. I find all of this reprehensible and I believe the public will as well," said Mazibuko.

"It's pretty shameful that members of Parliament will sit here and talk about electioneering and time as more important than the responsibility we have to hold the executive accountable."

At this point the meeting was heated, as opposition MPs one after another tried to push against an ANC wall for some work to be done in the remaining days of Parliament.

All four opposition parties represented in the committee wanted the National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu, who had given the committee until April 30 to report back, to extend the deadline to May 5, two days before the general elections.

But the ANC wouldn't hear any of it.

Orders from above
An angry Wilmot James, chairperson of the DA caucus, charged at the ANC MPs, saying: "You went and had a caucus, and exercised your mind, but I'm not convinced that you did exercise your mind. I think your mind was exercised on your behalf by Luthuli House. You came in to this meeting with every effort to shut it down and you are using whatever tactics possible to shut it down.

"You are not honouring the Constitution. You are shielding President Zuma from scrutiny, scrutiny from Parliament which is our obligation and duty.

"Shameful is a very light word, what is happening here is scandalous," said James.

ANC MP Cecil Burgess had earlier taken issue with Mazibuko for describing the ANC's behaviour as shameful.

"We've looked at this issue and it's not shameful, I think you must be more conservative with your words. It's a very nasty word to use … to say our behaviour is shameful. You should apologise," said Burgess.

Not at fault
He said the ANC was only trying to be responsible and reasonable in suspending the work of the committee and that it was not its fault that there was no time left.

"I know it would be nice if we could have the public protector say something terrible, to advance the election campaigns of some political parties that are destined to lose. It would be nice to have her here. But would that be a responsible behaviour of this committee?" asked Burgess.

ANC MPs and other senior leaders have repeatedly accused Madonsela of advancing the DA's political agenda in her investigations and reports.

Manamela stunned the meeting when he admitted that he was prioritising the ANC.

"If we are accused of getting our mandate from Luthuli House, I plead guilty because I'm a member of Parliament voted for on a list of the ANC.

"I plead guilty. I'm not here representing my jacket, I'm not here representing my kids, wife or relatives, I'm representing the ANC and I'm not ashamed of pleading guilty to that effect," he said.

No guarantee
Manamela later admitted to journalists after the meeting that there was no guarantee that the Nkandla matter will be taken up by the new Parliament.

"All the guarantee that we have is that we cannot wish away the public protector report, the SIU investigation and any other processes that any investigative body or institution has undertaken.

"All of those still remain in place and it will be the responsibility of the fifth Parliament to determine how they want to handle all of those reports," he said.

He added: "I cannot make a commitment on behalf of the incoming speaker. But the incoming speaker and whoever will be the majority party of the fifth Parliament cannot ignore that this matter is pending and that it needs to be dealt with."