Untouchable Jacob Zuma

2014-03-23 14:01

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Government plans to challenge Public Protector’s report in court

Dissenters fear dominant block within the party

ANC leader says many believe Zuma is a ‘king’

President Jacob Zuma looks set to get away without sanction from either government or the ANC despite a damning Public Protector report that found he and his family “materially benefited” from the R246?million Nkandla project.

Government officials and ANC leaders insist Zuma did no wrong and the report is likely to be reviewed in the high court.

Thuli Madonsela found that Zuma “benefited from the enormous capital investment from the non-security installations at his private residence”.

She has ordered that the president repay a “percentage” of the costs the state spent on non-security-related installations.

But the public works department, which oversaw the project, is adamant Zuma will not be made to pay.

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi’s legal adviser Philip Masilo said throughout the upgrade “no one told him [Zuma] he had to pay anything”.

He added: “One cannot expect the president to pay for the upgrades?... Nowhere were the costs discussed with the president.”

According to him, government policy did not limit costs for the security of sitting and former presidents.

“It is still the government’s view that the president is not going to pay unless someone comes and says he’s a security expert and says these security installations were done outside the assessment,” said Masilo.

On Thursday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe hinted at court action to break what they see as a stalemate because Madonsela is not a security expert.

“If agreement cannot be reached within a short space of time, competent institutions of state must review the reports and make a determination.”

An aggrieved person can approach the high court for a review of the Public Protector’s decision.

Yesterday evening, Madonsela said she would welcome a court challenge.

“If anybody took me to court for a review, I would be very happy because I know that no court of law would find otherwise,” she said.

“I would really welcome that review because the court would confirm my findings.”

The party is swatting away a megaimpact to its election campaign in the wake of the report’s release.

An ANC national executive committee (NEC) member said they were no concerned about any fallout before the elections, saying: “We are not worried at all. We are just doing our work.”

Another NEC member said the report was likely to have more impact among middle class voters than their core working class constituency.

The ANC maintains no public money was spent on Zuma in the Nkandla upgrade and each province is sticking to this line.

The party is directing the blame to the civil service and will insist during elections that nothing was spent on Zuma’s comfort.

Mantashe told journalists that Madonsela and the interministerial task team had come to the same conclusion that “the state has not spent any money on the dwellings of the president in Nkandla”.

Working class people treat a president like a king, according to North West ANC provincial chairman Supra Mahumapelo, adding that ordinary people were not interested in Madonsela’s report.

“They say Zuma is our president?...?we see him as our king. In the African tradition, a king must always be respected and embraced by everybody, regardless.”

Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) Military Veterans’ Association leader Kebby Maphatsoe said they had accepted the findings of the government investigations, which absolved Zuma of blame.

“We don’t need the president to explain himself. He never asked for upgrades,” he said.

A Gauteng ANC leader said those who wanted a tougher line against Zuma were wary of party power “dynamics”.

“You can’t just shout without numbers?...?For example, the SG [secretary-general] does not condone or agree with how things are, but he is alive to the numbers game and had to be politically astute in navigating the ship through these trying times.”

Mantashe was previously reprimanded for voicing strong views on the Guptas’ Air Force Base Waterkloof scandal.

Reacting to calls by former MK operative Marion Sparg for Zuma to resign, ANC veteran Frene Ginwala said only ANC branches could decide that.

Long-term ANC member Vusi Pikoli said the report would affect voting decisions as the party’s support base was much bigger than its membership. “What is likely to happen is that the ANC will stick with Zuma,” he said.

Sandi Sijake, the leader of the ANC veterans’ association said it was worrisome that the country “hero-worshipped people who do wrong”.

But action against Zuma was unlikely, according to him.

“It’s un-South African and un-ANC to say he must resign,” he said.

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