/ 29 July 2014

ANC snuffs out DA’s bid to rekindle Nkandla debate

The ANC has quashed a motion to discuss the president's private home
The ANC has quashed a motion to discuss the president's private home

The Democratic Alliance’s attempt to force Parliament to scrutinise public protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings into upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla was quashed on Tuesday.

The DA tabled a motion during the sitting of the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon calling for the re-establishment of an 11-member committee. The committee would be made up of six members of the ANC, two from the DA, one from Economic Freedom Fighters and two representing the smaller parties. 

It was proposed that this committee would consider several documents — the public protector’s report, the report of the special investigation unit, which also investigated the Nkandla upgrades, and other relevant submissions, according to the DA. 

Before the National Assembly addressed the matter, DA leaders had told journalists that it was high time that Parliament took a stand against the many delays it said Zuma has caused and continues to cause in the matter. “As of today, the public protector’s report is 132 days old, and yet it is still to receive a full and comprehensive reply from the president,” said the DA’s parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane. He said it was not acceptable that Zuma continued to delay the matter while South Africa remained in the dark on findings that he benefitted unduly from the Nkandla upgrades in the amount of R246-million. 

‘Cheap political posturing’ 
The chairperson of the DA’s federal executive, James Selfe, added that Zuma had not offered a response or acted on the protector’s requirement for him to repay the funds spent on what were “clearly upgrades to his own personal residence”. 

“There are a number of things he didn’t do in respect of this process. He must tell Parliament what he is going to do about public protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings,” said Selfe. “He doesn’t need to give Parliament yet another delaying tactic — on which he virtually has a worldwide copyright.” 

Shortly after the DA’s motion was tabled in the National Assembly, it was opposed by the ruling ANC, which dismissed it as cheap political posturing. 

In opposing the proposal, ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said the DA’s chief whip, John Steenhuisen, had not followed proper procedure in tabling the motion. Sizani suggested that Steenhuisen or the DA should have consulted the ANC and other parties in Parliament as is required by parliamentary process before “springing the surprise” on them during the sitting. “So, we will oppose it and that’s what they want anyway,” said Sizani.

Court in the crossfire 
The deputy speaker of the national assembly, Lechesa Tsenoli, also encouraged consultation “no matter how sensitive the subject”. 

The DA’s motion will be converted into a notice of motion, which means that Parliament could consider or discuss it at a later stage. 

Sizani had told journalists over the weekend that the ANC would not only support the re-establishment of Parliament’s ad hoc committee on the public protector’s Nkandla report, but would move for this to be done as soon as Zuma has submitted his response to Parliament. Given those pronouncements, the DA expected the ruling party to support its motion on Tuesday. 

The DA had threatened to ask the courts to compel Zuma to submit his full and comprehensive response; so as to end this unconstitutional undermining of the public protector should their motion not “see immediate outcomes”. It was not clear whether the party would pursue this route at the time of publishing.

Terms of reference 
Just a week before the May 7 general elections, the ANC in Parliament shut down the ad hoc committee that was established to process Madonsela’s report and Zuma’s response. The ruling party wanted the post-May 7 Parliament to deal with the matter, citing a lack of time in the last term of Parliament as the reason for not proceeding with the committee’s work. The special committee met only twice before it was quashed. In its meetings, MPs mainly fought over the committee’s terms of reference.