Jovial Rantao has some ideas on how President Jacob Zuma should respond to the Public Protector’s Nkandla report.
Here is what President Jacob Zuma must do. And it’s as simple as snow. He should write a letter to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, thanking her for a job excellently done in service of the South African democracy.
Zuma must shower praises on Madonsela for being brave enough to investigate the president of the republic of South Africa.
The president should mention that he is aware that there are some within his party, the ANC, who, in some inexplicable defence of him, wanted very badly for the investigation into his Nkandla palace to be stopped.
These would be the same people who sought to attack, in the most brutal of terms, the public protector in a mission designed to tarnish her integrity and damage her image. However, Madonsela, Zuma should add, would have shown the true grit of a defender of the public by soldiering on and concluding the probe.
The president should then apologise that looting on this grand scale took place in his name, and offer to pay, at an agreed rate, the R78 million that was spent on Nkandla back to the people of this country.
There should be a further apology from a man who was born into poverty that he recognises and acknowledges that it was wrong to divert money meant for basic services to the people that he leads for the “security upgrades” at his estate.
Taking money from the poor, he should add, is like grabbing bread from the mouth of a starving child.
Our president should then don his diplomatic hat and proclaim that the fact that he, as a sitting president, could be investigated for two years, is a clear and powerful demonstration that our young democracy works.
He could add that the ANC remains convinced of the correctness of the decision it took five years ago to appoint Madonsela as public protector.
He can then add his new-found rhetoric: “It is a good story to tell.”
Zuma should then stand on the podium in 12 days’ time, as ordered by the public protector, and announce to the nation measures he has taken in response to the damning findings. Zuma should, on the basis of the irrefutable evidence and conclusion reached by Madonsela, take strong action against members of his executive. He should, for instance, fire Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa for not advising him properly and for the inefficiencies identified by Madonsela. He should also axe national police commissioner Riah Phiyega for lying in a desperate and uncalled-for act of political correctness. When he took a decision to declare the Nkandla private residence a national key point, Mthethwa should have known what the implication of the declaration was for himself, as the political head, and for Zuma, as the owner of the house.
This minister should have advised the president, as is his duty, that the declaration, in terms of the National Key Points Act, meant the owner would be responsible for the costs of the security upgrades.
If the owner did not have the money required, he could come to an arrangement through which the state would pay and he could reimburse it.
In short, Mthethwa, perhaps in a rush to hide the amount of public money spent on Nkandla, scored a massive political own goal. He has landed his boss with a multimillion-rand debt.
And he has cost the government and the ANC in time and money spent cleaning up his mess.
The public protector’s report places Mthethwa in a difficult position. Seven years ago, his political star rose meteorically because of the role he played in resuscitating the political career of Zuma, who had been fired from his job. Now he stands out as a cabinet minister who failed to act properly and who failed to advise the president properly.
In conclusion, the president must give his trademark laugh, push up his glasses and fall on his sword. It has been a pleasure, he must say, and a fairy tale for a former cattleherd from rural Nkandla to rise and become president of South Africa.
But, as head of state, he takes full responsibility for the misconduct and maladministration of the so-called security upgrades to his house, and tenders his resignation.
He final words should go something like: “That I, as president, take full responsibility for the maladministration that took place under my watch and resign is a demonstration of political leadership and accountability of the highest order.
“It is a good story to tell…”
* Jovial Rantao is the editor of the Sunday Tribune.