Gwede lashes Nhleko
ANC secretary-general says police minister must explain why more tax money must be spent on Nkandla, adding that not giving reasons is reckless
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has slammed as “reckless” Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s statements that more money must be spent on President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla.
The public works department has also distanced itself from Nhleko’s claim that he doesn’t know who authorised the construction of 21 three-bedroom houses on land 1km from President Zuma’s estate.
In an interview on Friday, Mantashe told City Press that the only time the Nkandla issue would be put to rest would be once Zuma stepped down from office.
The long-running Nkandla controversy was also one of the most contentious issues at this week’s alliance summit between the ANC, SA Communist Party and SA National Civic Organisation.
City Press understands that there were heated exchanges among delegates, including Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile, whose suggestions for the party to pay for the non-security-related upgrades at Nkandla were shot down.
The alliance partners resolved that government needed to move fast to ensure that the matter was finalised. This, they decided, entailed holding accountable those found guilty of inflating the costs of upgrading President Zuma’s home, and ensuring that the money was recovered.
Mantashe told City Press: “To me, if Nhleko says we will spend more money, and leaves it at that, I think that is reckless in the first place. That is my view. That is reckless.”
Mantashe said it would have been better had Nhleko broken down how much was to be allocated to which additional security measures he claimed were needed. Mantashe said this would have enabled citizens like himself to make up their own minds about the necessity of the measures and whether they were maintenance related.
“I have my own private dwelling and I know I spend more money every time to maintain it,” he said.
The failure to go beyond the “more money” phrase had only served to irritate the public further, he said. South Africans, Mantashe added, were already “psyched up” by news reports of more of their money being channelled to Nkandla, which was increasing public dissent.
He felt Nhleko had found a “clumsy” way of stating his intentions.
“What does ‘more money’ mean in real terms? I don’t know whether you are going to construct something new or are maintaining something already there,” said Mantashe.
“When Thulas [Nxesi] and Nathi [Nhleko] sit there, they sit there as ministers of state and must be interrogated. Leaving that aside, they are members of the ANC.”
Mantashe was also scathing about the media’s “irresponsible” reporting on the additional money to be spent on Nkandla without investigating how much money would be spent and what it would be spent on. “It’s a sensational approach to a problem,” he said. Tempers flared at this week’s summit in which delegates spoke frankly about divisive issues haunting the alliance, particularly Nkandla. Two delegates at the summit told City Press that Mashatile stood up to raise the issue of Nkandla, saying it had to be dealt with. Mashatile was concerned about the damage the Nkandla saga had caused the party in Gauteng during last May’s general elections, during which ANC support declined by 10%. He was worried history would repeat itself next year. The delegates revealed that Mashatile only got his chance to speak after other ANC leaders, including North West ANC chairperson Supra Mahumapelo and Free State chairperson Ace Magashule, had stood up to flay “provinces that think they are better than others”. “They didn’t mention Mashatile by name, but vented their frustrations with certain ANC provinces. When it was Mashatile’s turn to speak, he stood to explicitly state that the big elephants in the room were Nkandla and e-tolls,” said one delegate. The delegates told City Press that Mashatile suggested that the ANC pay up for Nkandla on Zuma’s behalf, but this was roundly rejected.
“He was trying to be diplomatic, to say he is not fighting with Zuma, but that the alliance must deal with it and the ANC must pay.
“He was chastised by those who spoke, pointing out that it would be an admission of guilt if the party paid anything,” said one delegate.
However, the other delegate said that Zuma was already guilty in the eyes of the public and had been unable to speak in Parliament without being blocked by Economic Freedom Fighters MPs, who wanted him to pay what he owed. Last month, Mashatile openly criticised Nhleko’s report on the security upgrades in Parliament’s ad hoc committee on Nkandla. Nhleko’s report exonerated the president and found that he was not liable for the non-security upgrades, such as the swimming pool, amphitheatre, cattle kraal and chicken run. In contrast, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report found that Zuma had to pay a portion of the total cost, an amount meant to be determined by the police minister.
Mantashe said that, even if the ANC were to ask Zuma to pay, a perception would be created that it was an admission of guilt.
“That will never be a solution,” he said. “Once we come to the end of the term and Zuma goes, Nkandla will be closed. But there will be a new narrative for whoever becomes the president of the ANC – because the [agenda] is to discredit, delegitimise, weaken and destroy the ANC.”
At a press conference this week, Nhleko told reporters that the 21 “bachelor units” that cost R135 million to house Zuma’s SA Police Service (SAPS) protectors and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) staff were not considered part of the security upgrades.
Nhleko said he was not alluding to another investigation, but merely a “follow-up” on who had authorised the 21 homes and why they were built almost a kilometre from Zuma’s homestead if those who would use them were meant to protect the president.
“We need to know who constructed those houses, by whose decision, what influenced that and by whose decision it was to use that construction, which is situated completely outside the property of the state president [and meant] to be lumped together with security upgrades,” said Nhleko, adding that he supported the finding by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) that the homes were not part of the security upgrades.
Nhleko said the 21 houses, which had never been used because SAPS protectors continued to use temporary park homes closer to Zuma’s house, accounted for “a bulk” of the R246 million spent at Nkandla.
But Nxesi’s special legal adviser, Phillip Masilo, said “it had never been our concern” who authorised the construction of the houses, or why they were built.
Asked whether the department would clarify the matter with Nhleko, Masilo said they were not concerned about the issues he had raised.
“Our view is that we have done our investigation and the report is there. We don’t see any need to clarify that with the minister of police. We don’t see how that will take the matter further. According to us, [when it comes to] the Nkandla matter, from the public works side, we have implemented all recommendations and the matter is closed, except for the disciplinary hearings and the civil matter. But as far as we are concerned, the matter is closed,” said Masilo.
Nhleko suggested that the 21 homes were unnecessary because fewer SANDF and SAPS staff needed accommodation.
“In so far as the SANDF clinic is concerned, you’ve never had more than four people manning the clinic dedicated to the president’s place and, for the police, you never have them numbering more than 20,” he said.
“That’s why I’m saying there’s this clarification work that needs to be done about what was the thinking and why we dubbed the construction of those houses security upgrades.”
But a quick look at the three reports on Nkandla – one by the interministerial committee, another by the Public Protector and one by the SIU – shows that it was the SAPS, Nhleko’s own department, that asked the public works department for SAPS accommodation in 2009.
Nhleko’s spokesperson, Musa Zondi, responded by SMS: “The minister made a point and whatever else needs [to be] resolved won’t be through [a] megaphone or [a] public spat in the media.”