/ 31 October 2014

Zuma doesn’t need to ‘pay back the money’ – committee

A secret report reveals how millions flowed to Zuma.
A secret report reveals how millions flowed to Zuma.

The ANC has absolved President Jacob Zuma of any wrongdoing in the Nkandla saga, saying that there was no money to be paid back to the state as Zuma had not unduly benefited from the R246-million upgrades to his Nkandla home.

This goes against the findings of public protector Thuli Madonsela who found in March, following a two-year investigation, that Zuma and his family had unduly benefitted from several non-security feature upgrades at Zuma’s home.

On Thursday night, a meeting of the special parliamentary committee considering reports on the Nkandla upgrade heard that there was no rational basis to conclude that the president unduly benefitted from the upgrades.

The committee is made up of only ANC MPs after opposition parties’ members on the committee walked out in protest in early September.

ANC MP Mathole Motshekga, who appears to be the party’s enforcer on the committee, said that any conclusion of undue benefit would have to follow “expert assessment and determination”.

“It cannot and should not be said, unless we have an expert assessment and evidence that there is enhance of the so-called non-security features which have unduly benefitted the president, because such enhancement, if any, could result from alignment of the recreated structures or removed structures with the overall plan.

“So, in my view I would find that it would be premature to come to a conclusion to say there was undue benefit, because that determination must be preceded by expert assessment and determination. So far I don’t find any objective and rational basis to come to that conclusion,” said Motshekga.

No undue benefit
He said no one could say the national treasury or any minister should determine an amount to be paid back by Zuma because there was no undue benefit.

Motshekga and his ANC colleagues kept making reference to the high court in Cape Town’s ruling in the matter between the Democratic Alliance and the SABC’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

“The public protector’s reports may not be ignored, but they are not enforceable, binding or like court judgments. The public protector is an ombud and not a court of law,” they repeatedly quoted the court as saying.

Motshekga said the opposition parties’ members walked out of the committee process to await the high court’s ruling on the public protector’s powers.

He added that Madonsela’s letters to Zuma were informed by an incorrect interpretation of the law and therefore had no standing.

He criticized the opposition parties for launching their “pay back the money” campaign on the back of an incorrect interpretation, adding that the campaign had since collapsed.

Motshekga was not done. 

He left many in the meeting shaking their heads when he said those who appointed architect Minenhle Makhanya “used [their] own judgment wrongly or rightly, but it is neither here nor there”.

Nothing irregular
Makhanya, who was Zuma’s private architect, stands accused of taking over the running of the Nkandla project and is blamed for the escalation of costs.

The special investigating unit is suing him for R155-million.

Opposition parties had previously claimed that Makhanya was imposed on the department of public works’ officials by Zuma, and that the officials had no choice but to let him have his way, since he had been hand-picked and introduced to them by the president.

But Motshekga had concluded that it was of critical importance that the person who had done the initial plans, Makhanya, should meet with those who were coming in with a new plan in terms of the assessment.

“I don’t think there was anything irregular with those introductions and therefore I take the view that the introduction of Makhanya did not amount to the appointment of Makhanya or a suggestion that he should be appointed.”

“His introduction was not any suggestion that he should be the principal contractor,” said Motshekga.

Three ANC MPs had earlier pointed out that it was important to highlight in the committee’s final report that Zuma did not mislead Parliament in 2012, when he said his family paid for the construction of his home in Nkandla.

They blamed the media for creating an impression that the entire construction of the homestead was paid for by taxpayers. The committee will meet again next Wednesday to consider its own final report, which will be presented to a sitting of the National Assembly.