ANC ‘can’t ignore Zuma’

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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu hasnt always seen eye to eye with the ANC. He again found himself staring down ANC supporters, this time good-natured trade union members whose Wale Street march coincided with a vigil by senior clergy in support of the public protector and other Section 9 institutions. Photo: Henk Kruger

Cape Town- The ANC’s top brass is set to discuss the massive overspending at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead in a bid to prevent a similar splurge in future as it has “embarrassed” the party.

When it meets in Cape Town this weekend, the national executive committee was also expected to look at measures to ensure those responsible for the overspend are held accountable.

ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu said on Thursday: “There’s no way the committee cannot discuss the public protector’s report and findings on Nkandla.”

At least two national executive committee members indicated there was a need to unravel complex issues in the massive overspending and seemingly footloose attitude by officials and others that had “embarrassed” the ANC. The main aim, said one, would be to ensure this did not recur.

Amid critical comments from former ANC ministers such as Ronnie Kasrils and others not serving on the ANC’s highest decision-making structure between national conferences, ANC national executive committee member Pallo Jordan on Thursday became the first to publicly comment.

“I find it shocking that not one minister raised the matter with Zuma or drew his attention to the potential damage to his and the government’s reputation. The ANC leadership accepted collective responsibility for the human rights abuses committed by its members during the armed struggle, ANC ministers should now demonstrate the same moral courage,” Jordan wrote in Business Day.

Late last year, the ANC acknowledged the public outcry over the expenditure at Nkandla had put it under pressure.

Volunteers were issued with a crib sheet to answer any questions around the president’s homestead, based on the public works task team report which found he did not know of the costs and that no state money was spent on his private residence.

It was declassified in December after a year, when the Mail & Guardian published a draft public protector report which found Zuma would have to repay at least some of the costs.

This draft finding was confirmed last week when Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released the 447-page “Secure in Comfort” report, which showed the initial R27m costs ballooned to R215m and could end up costing R246m on completion.

Pointing to the “systematic” failure of government procedures and adherence to policies and prescripts - and lack of political leadership by several cabinet members, including Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa – Madonsela found the costs of “non- security” features such as the cattle kraal and culvert, chicken run, swimming pool and visitors’ centre should be repaid by the president.

Although Zuma had not misled Parliament, the public protector found he had failed to uphold his constitutional obligation to ensure state money was prudently spent and had acted “inconsistently” with the obligations of his office.

The DA’s unrelenting drive to blame Zuma for the massive overspending saga may have opened the door for the ANC to move to shield its party president. Yesterday the ANC went to the Johannesburg High Court against the DA’s electioneering as a breach of conduct, particularly over the SMS: “The Nkandla report shows how Zuma stole your money to build his R246m home.”

Mthembu said the DA was infringing the Electoral Act and code of conduct in its drive to play the president, rather than the election ball following the release of the public protector’s report into Nkandla. Calls for Zuma’s impeachment were part of this personalised election campaigning.

“(The DA) are playing down the significance of what (the public protector and the public works task team) reports are saying. By concentrating on the president, it makes us lose sight of the terrible breaches that have happened there. Who was responsible for the overspending? What did officials do?”

In their initial responses last week both government and the ANC drew attention to similarities between the reports, particularly over findings officials had allowed spending to escalate.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said the government had already taken action, and a probe by the Special Investigating Unit was at an advanced stage and could lead to cases being referred to the prosecution authorities.

Cape Argus

Access the Public Protector’s Nkandla report here


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