Never mind Nkandla, says ANC, we’re still OK

The ANC’s head of elections and campaigns, Nomvula Mokonyane, says she is confident the Nkandla scandal will not affect the ANC negatively in the local government elections on August 3.

This is despite the damning Constitutional Court judgment that found President Jacob Zuma failed to uphold the Constitution by not complying with public protector Thuli Madonsela’s remedial action to pay back some of the taxpayers’ money used for nonsecurity upgrades at his Nkandla homestead.

In an interview this week, Mokonyane played down the possible impact of the judgment, which has divided the ANC. She also lambasted the ANC leadership in Gauteng after the provincial executive committee called for Zuma to step down or to appear before the party’s integrity committee for bringing the party into disrepute.

The ANC Gauteng chairperson, Paul Mashatile, told the Mail & Guardian this week that the provincial executive accepted Zuma’s apology following the Constitutional Court ruling, but it felt the apology alone was not enough to restore the confidence of the people in the ANC.

But Mokonyane, who is also water affairs minister and one of Zuma’s staunchest supporters, said the call by the Gauteng provincial executive committee did not enjoy majority support within the ANC.

ANC structures in Zuma’s home province, KwaZulu-Natal, and Limpopo, the Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga and North West all said they accepted his apology and wanted him to finish his term as the country’s president in 2019.

“The ANC in Gauteng is not a representative of the national sentiment of party members and it should not be prioritised,” Mokonyane said. “You cannot measure the ANC in terms of what is happening in Gauteng. There are nine provinces in which the ANC operates; all are equally important.”

The ANC’s top six and the party’s national working committee last week accepted Zuma’s apology, but several ANC branches and party veterans have been calling for the president’s head.

One of the ANC’s alliance partners, the South African Communist Party, also said Zuma’s apology was not enough.

Mokonyane said ordinary South Africans were still happy with the ANC and had not passed judgment on Zuma.  

The ANC in Gauteng is worried that, if Zuma does not step down, the party’s electoral support is likely to decline even further. Its electoral support in the province dropped by 10% during the 2014 general elections.

“It [the judgment] damaged the image of the country and the ANC. If we want to win back the confidence of the people, you must listen to what they are saying. Many people have been saying he [Zuma] must step down. It will help [us] if he steps down,” said Mashatile.

Mokonyane said it was unfortunate that the ANC in Gauteng had ignored the party’s internal processes to deal with grievances. 

“Asking a member to step down is not helping the ANC. There is no basis to call for the president to step down. We will engage with them [the Gauteng provincial executive committee] formally when their report is presented to the national executive council,” she said. 

Mokonyane described the Gauteng ANC’s statements as “a misjudgment of facts”.

Before the ANC’s local government election manifesto launch in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, the party’s top leaders have been campaigning throughout the region.

Mokonyane said the ANC has received a positive reception from the people.

“We are taking cognisance of our shortcomings in the past five years and we are interested in deepening the democracy and political participation within the party.”

She said the ANC was not worried because the people had shown confidence in the ANC. 

“We [the ANC] work in a manner in which we self-correct and at no point do we consciously want to undermine our people or dilute the ANC as an organisation. The strength of the ANC is its diversity; it cannot be a monolith. I am yet to see a family that does not differ from time to time.”

Mokonyane said internal squabbles showed the maturity of the party and that internal structures that had been put in place were working.

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