Jacob Zuma's new number one

In the corridors of Parliament, Cedric Frolick is described as an “extremely hard-working” man and as a person who sticks to the rules.

Even the opposition parties respect this former Port Elizabeth school principal because he “does not take any nonsense”.

But if you want to have a proper interview with him, you can forget it. Frolick is busy – and the past week was no exception.

In fact, the past few months have been exceptionally hectic for Frolick, who was carefully selected by the ANC to head the first, and then the second, ad hoc committee on Nkandla.

As chairperson of the committee, which had to pass judgment on the Nkandla affair on behalf of Parliament, his role was crucial to Luthuli House and to President Jacob Zuma himself.

The committee’s report, which acquitted Zuma of any blame for the R246?million upgrade at his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, was accepted under protest by opposition parties in the National Assembly this week.

Not only was his committee report under discussion during Thursday night’s drama in Parliament, but Frolick was also in the Speaker’s chair when riot police stormed in and forcibly removed an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP from the chamber.

Baleka Mbete, in her role as Speaker in the National Assembly, is often accused of carrying out Luthuli House’s instructions in Parliament.

But it seems as if Frolick is the real asset for the party. Senior ANC MPs say openly that he has already “meant a lot” for the party in Parliament, and describe him as “knowledgeable and competent”.

They speak respectfully of him, which is almost unheard of for an ANC leader with a serious lack of struggle credentials and who for a time switched his support to another party, the United Democratic Movement, before returning to the ANC in 2002.

This week, Frolick lifted a huge load off the ANC’s shoulders by procuring a complete Nkandla acquittal for Zuma in Parliament.

Despite his leading role, Frolick manages to keep largely out of the spotlight.

A news search on Frolick yields little, apart from endless quotes and comments about Nkandla, and reports about his drunk driving charge in 2007.

After the docket initially disappeared and his blood samples got mixed up, he pleaded guilty in 2009 and paid a fine of R3?000 to avoid prison.

According to the ANC website, he likes sport, gardening, reading, jazz and R&B, and he joined the ANC for the first time in 1992.

In the 1980s, he was a teacher in the Eastern Cape, then later a deputy and acting principal before reporting to Parliament in 1999.

It is precisely Frolick’s rigorous and rule-bound personality – the sort of thing one would expect of a former headmaster – that apparently makes him so valuable to the ANC.

He knows the rules and laws, and has no hesitation in applying them to promote the ANC’s agenda.

That’s exactly how he and his committee dealt with the Public Protector’s damning Nkandla report this week.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found Zuma was unjustly enriched by the improvements at his home, that he violated the Executive Members’ Ethics Act and parts of the Constitution, and must repay a “reasonable percentage” of the cost.

But at a media conference where the Nkandla committee’s report was announced, Frolick explained in detail why all Madonsela’s findings on Zuma were unconstitutional or invalid.

According to a legal opinion, which Frolick personally requested, Madonsela cannot find that Zuma was “unjustly enriched” and must pay for Nkandla because she is not a security expert.

Although opposition parties describe the report as a “farce” and say Nkandla is still far from buried, Frolick succeeded capably, for the time being at least, to prevent Zuma from having to accept any accountability for Nkandla.

A high court has also found that Madonsela’s findings are not binding and without a court order, it is clear no one is going to make Zuma pay.

That’s a successful week in any Zuma supporter’s books: Frolick has succeeded in (sort of) making Nkandla disappear and kept a firm grip on the reins in Parliament, looking on as the police dealt with a vocal EFF MP who called the president a “thief”.

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