ANC secretary general, Fikile Mbalula. File photo by Madelene Cronje/M&G
The ANC has admitted to lying in parliament to defend former president Jacob Zuma’s R3.9 million “fire pool” at his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, when the saga was playing out in 2014.
The startling admission was made by the party’s secretary general, Fikile Mbalula, at Mjindi Town Hall in Barberton, Mpumalanga, on Sunday.
At the time of the scandal, former public protector Thuli Madonsela found in her Secure in Comfort report that Zuma should repay some of the taxpayers’ money which was spent on security measures at Nkandla.
Several government officials, including then minister of police Nathi Nhleko, public works minister Thulas Nxesi and deputy minister of public works Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu justified the construction of the swimming pool and defended Zuma, saying it was necessary in case of a fire.
Madonsela found that Zuma had improperly benefited from an excessive government upgrade to his home and should repay a “reasonable percentage” of about R20 million for some of the work.
Mbabula said the ANC had initiated an ad hoc committee to investigate the scandal, which described the pool as a “fire pool”.
“You could see that these were lies; it’s very difficult to explain lies. People lost their careers because of that thing,” he said on Sunday.
“It went to the constitutional court and, while we were voting, Mogoeng Mogoeng [former chief justice] in a damning judgment said [Zuma] was not fit for office. We still defended him but, today, he says he cannot tolerate [President Cyril Ramaphosa], who has not been issued with a damning judgment.”
Mbalula’s admission comes at a time when the ANC is infuriated with Zuma, who announced this month that he would not vote or campaign for the party in this year’s general elections. Instead, Zuma said he would vote for the newly formed Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) party.
Officially launched three weeks ago, the MK party already has representation in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
During the MK’s election campaign, Zuma has consistently attacked the leadership of the ANC.
Last week, ANC Youth League president Collen Malatji told the Mail & Guardian that school “dropout” Zuma should be “grateful” to the ANC, which had supported him through several scandals.
The leader of civil rights movement #NotInMyName, Siyabulela Jentile, said they were deeply concerned about Mbalula’s comments, because he had openly admitted to defending corruption in parliament.
Jentile said Mbalula’s admission — and lying under oath by extension — was an insult to the Constitution, parliament and to South Africans who put their faith, fears and aspirations in the hands of politicians.
“The [secretary general’s] statements make us wonder [on] how many other occasions the ruling party has had to lie in defence of their presidents, both past and present — most notably, the Phala Phala farmgate scandal,” he said.
“As members of the civil society in South Africa, #NotInMyName wishes to call upon ordinary South Africans to register to vote better in the upcoming 2024 national and provincial government elections.
“For many years we have been told to vote with our consciences; it is time to vote with our lived experiences — no lights, no jobs and no ethical leaders.”