510 President Jacob Zuma's homestead at KwaNxamalala, Inkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. 121012. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Cape Times - The ANC has given MPs on the newly established Nkandla ad hoc committee carte blanche and promised them a “blank cheque” to exercise their powers when they investigate the spending.

On Tuesday, Parliament formally approved an ANC motion for the establishment of the ad-hoc committee, which will consider President Jacob Zuma’s response to the upgrades at his Nkandla residence.

In a rare occurrence, some opposition parties including the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), sided with the ANC when parties had to vote on the DA’s motion to amend the scope of the committee’s work.

Speaker Baleka Mbete had to call for a vote on whether to accept the DA’s call for an amendment to extend the scope of the ad hoc committee with 104 voting for and 196 voting against it. There were nine abstentions.

ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said Parliament should establish the committee to consider Zuma’s response and make recommendations, if applicable. Committee members would exercise powers set out in rule 138 of the rules of the National Assembly.

The committee will consist of 11 members with six coming from the ANC, two from the DA, one from the EFF and two from smaller parties. The committee would have to report to the National Assembly by no later than October 28.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen disagreed with Sizani’s motion saying the ANC’s motion should clearly state and include the public protector and Special Investigating Unit (SIU) reports and all other “relevant information” for submission.

“I do so Madam Speaker because I don’t believe it’s possible for us to discuss the response of the president without having a sight in this Parliament to what he is responding to.”

Sizani said Steenhuisen was just “spoiling for a fight”. “The reason I say he’s spoiling for a fight; rule 138 specifically says they will exercise those powers necessary for them to do their work, they cover all this, so what is the problem? We are giving them a blank cheque. We are saying everything that would enable that committee to conduct its business is available.”

He said the problem was that the DA went to the media and promised them “that we intend killing our own ad hoc committee and that is why they’re opposed to our proposal”.

EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu agreed with Sizani. “If indeed what the chief whip of the majority party is saying is correct, that rule 138 encapsulates the fact that the ad hoc committee is going to discuss the report of the public protector and the SIU report, I don’t think there will be a problem with that because that is what the DA is basically requesting.

“If we will be able to discuss the response of the president we should be able to discuss the reports that the president is responding to.”

He said he didn’t think the ANC was saying the reports of the public protector and SIU will not be discussed.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said the DA amendments amplify the mandate of the committee.

Steenhuisen said it was a “very disappointing day” in the House and that MPs were leaving the “door open” for the reports to be “ignored”. “It’s not members of the House we don’t trust, it’s Luthuli House we don’t trust.”

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said after the debate that the DA will hold Sizani “to his public commitment” that other documents will be considered by the committee.

Political Bureau