Opposition: Zuma must be called to answer for Nkandla

Parties said President Jacob Zuma must be called to answer to MPs over money spent on his Nkandla home. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Parties said President Jacob Zuma must be called to answer to MPs over money spent on his Nkandla home. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Opposition parties on Thursday said President Jacob Zuma must be called to answer to MPs, and ultimately a court, over millions misspent on his Nkandla home.

However, the ANC argued that he was not liable for any wrongdoing. “The president is involved in the looting of money of our people,” Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema told Parliament’s ad hoc committee, which is considering the findings of three investigations into the controversy. 

“The president must take full responsibility because he willingly took part in this corruption and as a result he must be charged.” The Democratic Alliance pointed out that public protector Thuli Madonsela has lamented Zuma’s refusal to answer a list of 15 questions she put to him while probing the project, and that the Special Investigating Unit ran into the same recalcitrance on the part of the president. 

Newspapers reported this week that Zuma only responded to the SIU after he was sent a legal warning. DA MP James Selfe said the committee must therefore firstly be supplied with copies of Zuma’s eventual submissions to both institutions, and then summon the president to provide clear answers to the same questions he evaded in those. 

The Freedom Front Plus added that the president should provide proof of his claim to the National Assembly in 2012 that he took out a bank loan to pay for his home in Nkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal. 

‘He did not have the answers’
“Where is the bond Mr President,” FF Plus MP Corne Mulder asked, adding that Zuma had “responded in generalities because he did not want the full picture to emerge”. But ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude said: “My take would be that he did not have the answers. 

He did not have time to know everything. 

“We cannot say that we are holding the president responsible for something that was done by somebody else.” Fellow ANC MP Mathole Motshekga said before the committee could consider calling Zuma, it had to seek answers from public works staff implicated by the SIU’s report, the department’s then minister Geoff Doidge and Zuma’s architect Minenhle Makhanya, who is being sued for R155-million in excessive expenditure. 

He added that Zuma was “personally not responsible” for steps taken by director-generals and ministers, “so as matters stand we cannot talk about the president’s liability on this score or that”.

But opposition parties argued that this argument was legally flawed, since Madonsela found that Zuma had violated the Executive Ethics Code by failing to act in a manner that protected state resources. The DA’s Mmusi Maimane said it raised a moral problem too: “I have a difficulty with the process of holding politicians to account being resisted ... saying politicians are immune.
It cannot be.” 

The opposition also argued that Zuma had a duty to inquire about irregularities at Nkandla because it was first reported by the press five years ago. Madonsela made the same point in her report, titled Secure in Comfort, in which she found that Zuma should reimburse the state for luxuries like a swimming pool added to Nkandla. 

Rebuke from Malema
The first hour of Thursday’s committee meeting was taken up by heated debate over the status of Madonsela’s report, with opposition MPs saying her office was independent while the SIU reported to the executive. Therefore, they argued, their task was to ensure that Zuma respected the remedy she imposed and repaid the state a portion of money spent at Nkandla. 

Motshekga drew a rebuke from Malema for arguing that Zuma was right, in a recent letter to the public protector, to say that her office enjoyed no higher standing than an ombudsman, and that he was not bound by her recommendations. 

The only reason, Motshekga suggested, why she was not called an ombudsman was because the party preferred the more gender neutral term of public protector. Malema said the ANC was systematically attacking state institutions as the president fell foul of them, and recalled the fate of the Scorpions, the anti-corruption unit within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that was disbanded in 2009. 

“South Africa has been reduced to personal rule,” he said. “Each time there is an institution that has a problem with President Zuma, we decide that institution must be destroyed in defence of one individual. “The public protector is what we have left, everything else has been corrupted, the NPA, the Hawks.”

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