Parliament – After a year of politically hounding President Jacob Zuma to know when he will “pay back the money”, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema on Thursday appeared to close that campaign with a warning that he would pursue the matter of Nkandla in court.
“It is very clear we will never get an answer, Mr President. Let’s meet in court,” Malema challenged Zuma in the National Assembly, ending a three-hour oral reply session in the National Assembly that came close to pandemonium after he raised the question as the last of the day.
As EFF MPs chorused and occasionally shouted across the floor, Zuma stonewalled, saying he could not pre-empt a matter that was before a parliamentary ad hoc committee studying Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s report on misspending at Nkandla.
“Unfortunately I don’t have the authority to interfere with this issue. There is a parliamentary process ongoing and there is an investigation coming out of people being charged. I cannot interfere in court proceedings or parliamentary proceedings. I would actually be interfering,” he repeated.
“I am saying the process has not been completed.. why then do you think you should have the final word?”
Malema rejected any mention of Nhleko, telling Zuma that he was not interested in the police minister’s “video games” — a reference to the footage Nhleko showed reporters of water pumped from the presidential pool as a fire-fighting exercise when he released his report in May.
He said the only legitimate findings on the five-year-old controversy over a wasteful security upgrade at Nkandla were those of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who held that Zuma had unduly benefitted from the project and must refund the state a percentage of its cost.
Madonsela on Monday took the extraordinary step of calling a media briefing to complain about the manner in which her findings were dismissed, and pointed out that she had not instructed Zuma to appoint Nhleko to determine whether he should repay some of the money spent.
Instead she had ordered that he call on National Treasury and the police to help him determine how much to repay.
But Zuma ignored the point and told the House that in appointing the minister as the final arbiter, he had done Madonsela’s bidding.
He was interrupted by EFF MP Primrose Sonti shouting in protest, prompting ANC chief whip Stone Sizani to rise and appeal to Speaker Baleka Mbete to “stop the abuse” as the last question of the day had been dealt with.
Earlier Mbete battled to control the floor. EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi taunted that she was tempted to resort to recently tightened rules to call in protection services to evict them
from the chamber for the third time in a year.
“You passed a rule for people to come here and kill us. You enjoy the beating of black people, I think,” Ndlozi charged at Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenhuisen – criticising the DA for voting in favour of the tightened rules.
Mbete earlier in the day confirmed that Parliament had recruited police officers to beef up the protection services to deal with disruptions in the House.
The EFF was markedly alone in its protest, as other opposition parties distanced themselves from the heckling. At the end of the session, those parties resumed work in the ad hoc committee on Nhleko’s report, which the EFF is boycotting.
The session however immediately deadlocked as the ANC majority rejected draft findings tabled by the opposition. The proposals notably seek to recall Madonsela’s findings from her “Secure in Comfort” report which concluded that Zuma had unduly benefitted.
“It is clear that we do not support the report of the police minister,” the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Narend Singh said after ANC MPs reacted by accusing the opposition of bad faith.
The committee has a deadline of Friday to meet to report back to the National Assembly on Nhleko’s report, which found that all features to which Madonsela objected in fact served a critical security purpose.
The legislature is expected to rubberstamp his findings and the Democratic Alliance has made plain that it is preparing to challenge the overturning of Madonsela’s findings in court.