Cape Town - It took just over an hour on Thursday to agree to postpone until Monday the work of the parliamentary ad hoc committee on Nkandlagate.
Thus, questions over exactly what the committee would consider when it finally does start its work - whether, as the opposition parties have argued, it may call President Jacob Zuma himself, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) - have effectively been postponed until then.
The reason? MPs would have to study the 447-page public protector’s report on the R215 million taxpayer-funded security upgrades at the presidential Nkandla rural homestead - and Zuma’s letter to Parliament in which he indicated he was still awaiting the outcome of the pending SIU probe before making a fuller response. The SIU proclamation and the public protector’s report were submitted alongside the letter to Parliament earlier this month.
On April 9, the ad hoc committee was established to consider the president’s submissions, and if required, make recommendations by April 30. While opposition parties named their candidates within a day, the ANC took eight of the 10 days allowed under parliamentary rules to put forward their MPs.
As expected, National Assembly house chairman Cedric Frolick was elected unopposed as the ad hoc committee chairman within a few minutes.
The discussions as to what exactly the MPs should consider, and whether the committee should not actually sit on Friday, rather than resuming work on Monday, took up the next 55 minutes.
ANC MP Buti Manamela, also the leader of the Young Communist League, politely pointed out that all focus had been on election campaigning until about a day or two ago when MPs were informed they would have to return to Parliament to sit on this committee. While not ignorant of the matter, the reports to be read were voluminous - and this needed time, Manamela added.
ANC MP Cecil Burgess dismissed an opposition suggestion to read the documents overnight and start work on Friday. “I’m not going to read it tonight and come here tomorrow [Friday] and say ‘I’ve read it’. I would be lying,” he said.
In the end, the opposition got two hours more on Monday, as the committee will resume at noon, rather than at 2pm as initially scheduled.
And Frolick called on the MPs to attend Monday morning’s unveiling of a statue of Nelson Mandela just in front of the National Assembly entrance.