Cape Town - Young Communist League leader and ANC MP Buti Manamela has defended himself and fellow ANC members accused of taking orders from Luthuli House on how the parliamentary committee should handle the report on the Nkandla upgrades.
“If we are accused of getting our mandate from Luthuli House, I plead guilty because I am a member of Parliament, voted for on a list of the ANC. I plead guilty. I’m not here representing my jacket, I’m not here representing my wife, my kids. I’m not ashamed of my political party,” Manamela said on Monday.
If the ANC had wanted to shut down the committee, Manamela argued, it would simply have proposed a motion that said there was a response from the president and there was a Special Investigating Unit probe, “full stop”.
Manamela said this after the ANC used its superior numbers in effect to shut down the ad hoc committee looking at the public protector’s report on Nkandla before the May 7 elections.
This leaves the incoming MPs to deal with President Jacob Zuma’s response to the public protector’s findings on the R215 million taxpayer-funded upgrades carried out at Zuma’s rural homestead with the stated aim of improving security.
According to parliamentary rules, all uncompleted matters lapse when Parliament’s term ends at midnight on May 6. Unfinished business may be revived by the new Parliament through a majority-supported motion.
After three hours of polite but barbed political exchanges, the ANC successfully carried its motion that there was not enough time for the committee to do its work properly by tomorrow, while related investigations were continuing, and the matter should therefore stand over for the next Parliament.
“We want justice. We need to do this work thoroughly – why rush?” ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude said before tabling the motion, adding that the governing party was “using our brains, not emotion”.
But opposition MPs described this as “scandalous”, “shameful” and a betrayal of MPs’ constitutional obligations.
“You want this discussed – just not before May 7. There’s no way this Parliament can bind the next Parliament,” said Freedom Front Plus chief whip Corné Mulder, whose subsequent motion to press on with the work was defeated in the later committee vote.
“If the ANC wants to use its majority to push this through, so be it, but we are failing Parliament. We are failing the constitution.”
Nor did DA MP and federal chairman Wilmot James mince his words: “I think your mind was exercised on your behalf by Luthuli House (the ANC head office). You came here to shut the committee down… You came here to shield President Zuma from scrutiny. I think it’s scandalous.”
Earlier, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko took exception to Manamela’s claims that the public protector had delayed her report as part of a political agenda, releasing it in the run-up to the elections, describing his comments as “contemptible” and “reprehensible”.
Echoing Mulder, she said Zuma had taken nine months to answer the public protector’s questions and had then failed to respond to 18 of those.
ANC chief whip Stone Sizani’s spokesman, Moloto Mothapo, said the DA’s insistence that Parliament “rushes” this matter before the polls was misguided electioneering.
“It is certainly a self-serving attempt to abuse parliamentary structures and processes for mere electioneering,” he said. “We (the ANC) will ensure that the next Parliament attends to this matter”.
The ANC took eight of the 10 days allowed under parliamentary rules to select its MPs for the committee, which convened for the first time last Thursday. The meeting was adjourned until Monday so members could study all reports.
Much of Monday’s deliberations were taken up with the scope and mandate of the committee.
Opposition MPs’ push for a mandate as wide as possible was frustrated when committee chairman Cedric Frolick ruled: “What is in front of this committee to consider is the response of the president (with certain submissions attached to it).”
The deliberations on Monday came a day before Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi was to announce steps against several senior department officials over the Nkandla expenditure. The media briefing has been postponed, without reasons or another date being given. It has been learnt that the SIU has handed over what it calls “evidence against 15 officials”, and is expecting to hand evidence of criminal wrongdoing to law enforcement agencies in a week or so. The probe had not been expected to be completed before the end of next month.