Nkandla: Zuma’s off the hook, for now

With the adoption of the Nkandla ad hoc committee’s report in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Parliament has accepted Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s findings and the blame for the accelerated costs has been placed on officials and contractors.

The committee’s report, debated in Parliament on Tuesday, recommends that Nhleko and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi’s reports on the security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s home be adopted.

The report recommends that the executive ensure all the necessary steps were taken to make sure that the safety of the president and his family was not compromised.

Even the systematic rejection of the report by various opposition parties did little to sway the ruling party from voting in the report. The Democratic Alliance has vowed not to take the adoption of the report lying down and threatened to go to the Cape Town high court on Wednesday. 

Debating the adoption of the report on Tuesday, ANC MPs deplored the state of the president’s homestead and the shoddy workmanship they had seen on their visit to Nkandla last month. But opposition parties rejected the report and again called for the president to pay back a portion of the money spent on the upgrades to his private home.

Afraid of Madonsela
Freedom Front Plus MP Corné Mulder said the ANC were seriously scared of one woman, the public protector. “That is the essence of Nkandla. You are scared of one woman. Does this speak of a serious search for the truth or does it attest to an attempt to defend the indefensible at all costs. Did the president and his family unduly benefit? The answer is yes, they did. R246-million has already been spent,” Mulder said.

Talking about what he views as non-security upgrades, Mulder made an example of the swimming pool. “There is an agreement that it is a swimming pool, not a firepool. And this swimming pool that is supposed to fight fire by some coincidence has a shallow end, and it also has a deep end. A shallow end for small fires, and a deep end for big fires,” he said, which led to uncontrollable laughter from the ANC and opposition benches.

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh said they totally rejected the report and were disappointed that throughout the committee sittings, their requests to call more witnesses were rejected.  

The Economic Freedom Fighters waived their right to participate in the debate as they felt it was illegal and sub judice. The party staged a walkout before voting commenced.

United Democratic Movement MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said the pool was too far away to be effective in any firefighting measures. “No amount of clever manoeuvring can change the fact that President Zuma benefited unduly from the upgrades to his home in Nkandla. The [police minister’s] report wants us to believe that the swimming pool was constructed as insurance against the unlikely event of a fire. However, given the low probability of this happening, it is clear that in the majority of instances, the pool will serve the likely event of recreation,” Kwankwa said.

“I find it difficult to understand the argument that it was for firefighting given the fact that the president’s main house is not clearly visible from the swimming pool. I therefore shudder to think what would happen to our beloved president in the unlikely event of a fire.”

Need for security
ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude said there was no opulence at Nkandla.

“There is no security in comfort. Instead, the president and his family are vulnerable, there is a need for further security assessment and the installation of the security features lying on the floor in the police control room. As members of the ad hoc committee, at Nkandla, we spoke with many voices on the same message, that those responsible must be held accountable: there was poor workmanship, that the president and his family are not secured and that those features were actually constructed for security purpose, some of our colleagues from the opposition said that by going to Nkandla we have actually killed their electioneering strategy,” Dlakude said.

She said opposition MPs had changed their tune and were back in Parliament because of their hatred of the president.

‘Constitution bulldozed’
The DA moved to amend the report and was voted out 200 to 92. The original ad hoc committee report was adopted with 198 votes in favour and 93 against.

After losing the bid to amend the report, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the party had now exhausted every possible avenue available to them in Parliament to ensure that the remedial actions recommended by the public protector in her report on Nkandla were enforced.

“We therefore have no choice but to take this matter to the high court. I have accordingly instructed our lawyers to initiate legal proceedings to nullify the minister of police’s report and to force President Zuma to comply with the public protector. 

“The DA will not allow the Constitution of the Republic to be bulldozed over so that corruption can be swept under the carpet. President Zuma must be held to account and we will take every step possible to make sure this happens,” he said. 

The office of the ANC chief whip welcomed the adoption of the report and called for contractors and officials responsible for price inflation to be called to task.

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