Nkandla: Committee tells Zuma to blame employees

The committee that absolved Zuma was made up entirely of ANC members. Opposition party members walked out in September. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The committee that absolved Zuma was made up entirely of ANC members. Opposition party members walked out in September. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The parliamentary ad hoc committee on Nkandla has recommended that President Jacob Zuma deal with state employees who oversaw the project.

The committee, which is considering reports on how almost R250-million was spent to upgrade Zuma’s private home, resolved to let Cabinet decide whether or not improvements to the Nkandla homestead constituted genuine security upgrades.

The committee wrapped up its work on Tuesday, almost two-and-a-half months after the National Assembly established it to consider Zuma’s response to public protector Thuli Madonsela’s Secure in Comfort report and other reports on the subject of Nkandla.

The committee completed its work without calling a single witness, bar a parliamentary legal adviser who was summoned to give a limited legal opinion on what could happen in the case of a civil claim that Zuma had benefited unduly from the upgrades.

As expected, the ANC-only committee – the opposition parties walked out in September – absolved Zuma of any wrongdoing and sought to lay the blame on former Cabinet ministers and state employees who worked on and oversaw the R246-million project.

Undue benefit
Even more surprising is the committee’s resolution to refer the matter of undue benefit back to the Cabinet to determine.

It said: “With regards to whether Zuma and his dependents benefited unduly as a result of the security upgrades, the committee recommends that the matter of what constitutes security or non-security upgrades at the president’s residence be referred back to Cabinet for determination by the relevant security experts in line with the Cabinet memorandum of 2003.”

Madonsela found that Zuma and his family had unduly benefited and recommended that Zuma pay a portion of non-security upgrades such as the swimming pool, amphitheatre, chicken run and cattle kraal.

But the committee dismissed her recommendations, which they said were not binding. They said she was not a security expert and could not distinguish between a security measure and a non-security measure.

The committee recommended that a technical team of qualified security experts from the State Security Agency and the police should evaluate the security features at Nkandla to assess if they were secure and they should investigate the concerns raised by the Special Investigations Unit report.

“The outcome of this evaluation must be reported back to Cabinet,” it said.

Recommendations
The committee recommended that everyone responsible for the loss of state funds be held accountable and that the law take its course.

It called on the department of public works to strengthen its supply chain management and key accounts management branches, and, as part of this process, set precise time frames and cost limits for prestige projects. 

Other recommendations were:

  • The president must ensure the implementation of all measures as outlined in the committee’s final report on the Nkandla upgrades. But the committee believed that a security upgrade must be effected in terms of the provisions of the Cabinet memorandum of 2003.
  • The president should consider if any members of the executive authority failed to implement the provisions of the Cabinet memorandum of 2003, either owing to complacency or negligence in the execution of their duties, and take appropriate action if necessary.
  • The president should note the cases in which the executive authorities did not act according to the prescripts of the Public Finance Management Act, which sets out clear divisions of responsibility between the executive authority and the administration and, if necessary, take appropriate action.
  • The Cabinet must strengthen efforts to ensure greater co-ordination of strategic projects pertaining to the security of the president, deputy president, former presidents and former deputy presidents.
  • Regarding the structures and amenities that were built on land adjacent to the Zuma homestead belonging to the Ngonyama Trust, the committee recommended that the relevant executive authority should discuss, at the appropriate time, the post-tenure arrangements with the relevant local, provincial and national authorities to facilitate the future use of the structures and amenities by local communities.
  • The department of public works should ensure that the necessary consultations take place with the state security department so that proper security assessments take place regularly to ensure the ongoing security of the president, deputy president, former presidents and former deputy presidents. The Cabinet must report back to the National Assembly on the steps taken to effect this recommendation.
  • Regarding the legislation and regulations that guided the security upgrades at Zuma’s home, the committee recommended that policy and regulatory gaps in the legislative and regulatory framework relating to securing private residences of political office bearers requires urgent attention to avoid further possible waste of resources.
  • It called for a comprehensive review of the National Key Points Act to ensure that new legislation relevant to the Constitution and legislative dispensation is promulgated.

The National Assembly is expected to adopt the committee’s report on Thursday but it does not seem this will put the Nkandla matter to rest.

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