CANDICE BAILEY, MOGOMOTSI MAGOME AND LOYISO SIDIMBA
Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma will this week face the ANC national executive committee for the first time since Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that he unduly benefited from the R246 million security upgrades at his private Nkandla home.
Zuma may however not be having sleepless nights over the issue as indications are that he is unlikely to be censured by the party, which is expected to give the inter-ministerial task team report more weight than Madonsela’s damning report.
This comes as Madonsela faces the prospect of defending a lawsuit from former Public Works minister Geoff Doidge, who is “bitterly disappointed” with parts of the report that refer to him.
Doidge, who is currently the ambassador to Sri Lanka, considered legal action against Madonsela in the days leading up to the release of the report.
He argued that he had not been interviewed and did not have enough time to read the report or get documents that were pertinent to his role in the project.
Madonsela, in releasing the report this week, found Doidge’s conduct in not taking decisive measures to curb the excessive expenditure when reports on the upgrades first surfaced, improper and accused him of maladministration.
She did not, however, find his political interference ill intentioned.
Several ANC leaders told The Sunday Independent it would be hard to censure Zuma over Nkandla as the ministerial task team absolved him of any blame in the saga.
An ANC leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said any attempt at an internal revolt in the ANC would be stifled by the existence of the ministerial report.
“Any leader who will try to attack the president at the meeting or call for his censure, will have to explain why they are giving more weight to Madonsela’s report instead of the ministerial task team report, which is equally legitimate.
“The security cluster, whose ministers are bigwigs in the NEC, will not allow their report to be undermined. It will be hard to wage any kind of revolt against the president or the leadership at the NEC meeting,” he said.
An NEC member, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said though the Nkandla matter was most likely to be discussed at the NEC meeting this week, he did not foresee any kind of rebellion.
“Apart from the usual suspects like the leaders from Gauteng, I don’t see anybody trying to use the report to lambast the president, it will not be worth it.
“The report does not paint the president as having been personally directing what was happening with the project, and that will be more or less the emphasis from the party.
“There’s a need to give prominence to the ministerial task team report, that is very important,” said the NEC member.
Zuma has also received widespread support from ANC structures since the release of Madonsela’s report, with some, such as the ANC Youth League, attacking Madonsela’s credibility rather than dealing with aspects of the report which are critical of the president.
The ANC Women’s League claimed Madonsela’s findings were “substantially no different” to the government’s own report, which cleared Zuma of wrongdoing.
“Both reports concluded that “the state has not spent any money on the private dwellings of the president in Nkandla”, said the league.
Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association chairman Kebby Maphatsoe accused Madonsela of working for opposition parties.
Maphatsoe, also an ANC NEC member, said Madonsela’s analysis of the security upgrades were not security-informed as she is a civilian.
The SACP also came out in support of Zuma, and lambasted the timing of the release of the report along with the length of time it took to be concluded and released as compared to the inter-ministerial report.
Gauteng SACP provincial secretary Jacob Mamabolo lashed the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters for their impeachment call and criminal charges against Zuma.
At the same time, yesterday Johannesburg resident Charles Visser also laid criminal charges of theft of public funds, corruption and fraud against Zuma at the Brixton police station.
Said Mamabolo: “Everyone, especially the opposition parties, are jumping to conclusions based on an inconclusive report by the public protector. This is particularly strange because, among others, the president has himself issued a proclamation for the Special Investigating Unit to investigate the matter,” he said.
Doidge’s potential lawsuit follows a series of e-mails exchanged between his lawyers and Madonsela up to the day before the report was released, showing Doidge’s unhappiness with the report.
The e-mails culminated in Doidge urging Madonsela to prominently incorporate in her report a paragraph stating that she had not “engaged with him sufficiently or with any degree of enthusiasm or attention to detail to obtain his evidence or comments… in spite of him being available and willing to assist in the investigation”.
“In short High Commissioner Geoff Doidge is bitterly disappointed at the manner in which he has been treated and the way in which the public protector has dealt with his role in this report which is in many respects incorrect, misleading, contextually incomplete without foundation and distorts his role in the matter,” the paragraph was to say.
Madonsela did not incorporate the paragraph in her report.
Instead, in her report, Madonsela said the investigation received an “unprecedented number of threats to litigate right up to the eve of the release of the report”.
“Many of these threats involved an intention to prevent the publication of the report… Threats to interdict the issuing of the report were made, inter alia, by former commissioner of police, General Bheki Cele, High Commissioner Doidge and Mr (Minenhle) Makhanya.”
She added: “Some of the threats were founded on a mistaken belief that parties are entitled to a provisional report and to be given ample time. Some required periods in excess of a month, to scrutinise such report.”
Doidge’s lawyer Nicqui Galaktiou said they were “considering the implications of the final report and will report the findings to Doidge for his consideration”.
On Friday Madonsela told The Sunday Independent that “there was a misunderstanding from ambassador Doidge’s attorney.
“They seemed to think they were entitled to unlimited time with the provisional report.”
She said the team had sent Doidge questions and he had responded. “One-on-ones are at our request. If we ask specific questions and people respond, that is enough,” said Madonsela.
“He chaired several meetings. We wanted the circumstances under which he chaired these meetings and to know why he did not act after the first Mail & Guardian (newspaper) article. He responded to the questions,” she explained.