Cape Town 251011 Costitutional Court Judge Mr Justice Zak Yacoov swearing in the new Minister for Pulblic Works Mr Thembelani "Thulas" Nxesi at the Tuynhuys at Parliment. picture : neil baynes

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi’s feedback on the Nkandla investigation unsurprisingly left more questions than answers.

He acknowledged that an astonishing R200 million-plus had been spent on beefing up security at President Zuma’s residence after it was declared a national key point in April 2010, but insisted that Zuma had done no wrong.

Nxesi told journalists in Pretoria on Sunday that “there is no evidence that public money was used to fund upgrades at the private residence of President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla”.

“President Zuma is not involved in this process whatsoever, the president is not involved at all. He could be informed about the upgrades, but not about the details,” said Nxesi.

But The Mail & Guardian reported last year on the basis of documents in its possession that Zuma was indeed provided with exhaustive details about progress on the Nkandla security project in November 2010.

What then do we make of the rest of the minister’s claims, particularly as he took refuge behind the National Key Points Act and declined to reveal details of what the security upgrades entailed?

In the absence of corroborating evidence, it smacks of a cover-up. It is difficult anyway to imagine the minister applying the requisite zeal to an inquiry into activities of his own department, and it would be in Zuma’s interests to appoint an independent inquiry.

But critics will point to the recent controversy over the credibility of the Seriti commission of inquiry into the arms deal, and a trend that seems to be gathering momentum in the wake of the ANC’s elective conference at Mangaung.

Emboldened by their success there, it seems that the party’s elite have become dismissive of accountability and transparency.

These are not just niceties, they are fundamentals of democratic practice. Ignoring them is to step on to a slippery slope.