Nkandla report passes after riotous debate

2014-11-13 21:42

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Cape Town - The ANC on Thursday drove its report absolving President Jacob Zuma from responsibility for the abuse of funds on his Nkandla home through the National Assembly, after an opposition filibuster that brought pandemonium to Parliament over the security upgrade saga for a second time.

Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said the opposition was united in its rejection of the report, which leaves it to Cabinet to rule whether refurbishments at Nkandla were legitimate security measures and to Zuma to decide who should be held responsible for excesses.

"Our president has forsaken his constitutional duty and the ANC report has rubber-stamped his sins," he charged.

"Today the opposition stands together, united in our rejection of the report and its collection of denials, half-truths and fallacies."

Maimane said the ANC was shielding a shamed Zuma from account but unless he heeded the public protector's directive to reimburse the state for luxuries added to his homestead "we will be left with no choice but to move for his removal from office".

AgangSA's Andries Tlouamma said Zuma should step down because his presidency was "a disgrace to our country".

"Are the ANC telling us that former President [Thabo] Mbeki was worse than this? I want to say to the president I hope he will do us a favour and resign with immediate effect."

Tempers flared across the floor, as veteran ANC MP Mathole Motshekga, who was pivotal in the ad hoc committee that drafted the report, said the opposition was exaggerating the public protector's findings against Zuma and called Maimane "the liar of the century".

He was forced to withdraw the insult, but went on: "There was no evidence in any of the reports that there was any undue influence on the part of the president. On what basis does one link the escalation of the costs with the president? There is no basis to link anything with the president."

It drew howls of protest from opposition parties who earlier shouted down Speaker Baleka Mbete when she tried to prevent them from bringing dozens of motions that delayed the debate by four hours.

In an echo of the Economic Freedom Fighters' heckling of Zuma in late August, Maimane and fellow MPs shouted "reverse your decision" and "she must go" at the speaker.

Mbete relents

She relented after a quarter of an hour, accepting their argument that motions were not unscheduled as she claimed because they had warned her earlier in the day.

The opposition proceeded to call for future debates ranging from the cost of ministerial flights to Morocco's refusal to host the Cup of Nations, but mostly the motions scathingly targeted Zuma's handling of Nkandla and his refusal to face Parliament on the issue.

EFF MP Godrich Gardee gleefully warned he had 50 motions to move, then began: "I move that this House congratulates President Zuma on being exonerated on Nkandla."

The debate on the report was finally introduced by the chairperson of the ad hoc committee, Cedric Frolick, who defended its rejection of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's finding that Zuma was unduly enriched by features such as a swimming pool because they did not relate to his safety.

"At this stage it would be premature for the committee to come to the conclusion that the president was enriched," he said.

Frolick insisted that only Cabinet could make a finding on this since presidential security requirements were determined by a Cabinet memorandum, adding that it was beyond the public protector's powers.

The report gives Cabinet three months to revert to Parliament with a finding, the same timeframe it gives the executive to move against officials.

Without naming him, Frolick fingered former minister Geoff Doidge, saying various investigations into the upgrade had found that "especially the former minister and deputy minister of public works did not act according to the prescripts of the PMFA [Public Finance Management Act]".

'It is legal because I wish it'

The ANC on Thursday drove its report absolving President Jacob Zuma from responsibility for the abuse of funds on his Nkandla home through the National Assembly, after an opposition filibuster that brought pandemonium to Parliament over the security upgrade saga for a second time.

DA MP James Selfe said it was ridiculous to confine blame to these officials as Zuma must have been aware of the extent of construction at his private home in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

"He was unhappy about the bullet proof glass, so much so that poor Geoff Doidge had to go off to the factory. He must have been deaf and blind not to see what was going on."

The Inkatha Freedom Party's Narend Singh predicted that the president would face embarrassment as "new facts are likely to emerge from the court case" seeking to reclaim funds from his architect Minenhle Makhanya, and disciplinary hearings against officials.

Pieter Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus said Zuma's stance on Nkandla could be summed up in a phrase attributed to French King Louis XIV: "'It is legal because I wish it'."

"That is what happened at Nkandla."

As the debate drew to a close, Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli lost control of the chamber as the EFF banged on their desks and chanted "he must pay back the money".

Next, Maimane referred to Zuma as corrupt and Gardee added:"Money was stolen here. The president is telling the nation that there was no money stolen, that he did not benefit. The president is lying, unless he wants to say he is a thief. He must pay back the money.

An exasperated Tsenoli pleaded: "Can you behave? Just for change, behave."

Maimane tabled an alternative report on behalf of the opposition which asks that Zuma be removed from office and made to repay a reasonable portion of the costs of Nkandla.

In his declaration, United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa challenged Zuma to challenge Madonsela's report on Nkandla in court, saying it was the only legal route to overturning it.

The opposition report was rejected, and the committee's report accepted with 210 against 130 votes. There were no abstentions.

Read more on:    parliament 2014  |  politics  |  nkandla upgrade

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