ANC MPs turn on Zuma

Pres­i­dent’s U-turn on pay­ing back the money angers MPs and party mem­bers, who feel ‘used and abused’

CityPress - - Front Page - AN­DISIWE MAKINANA, HLENGIWE NHLABATHI, SETUMO STONE, SU­SAN COM­RIE and ABRAM MASHEGO news@city­press.co.za

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s U-turn in the Con­sti­tu­tional Court – where he agreed to pay what he owes to­wards the R246 mil­lion in pub­lic money spent on up­grades to his Nkandla home – has an­gered ANC MPs who feel their work has been un­der­mined and that he threw them un­der the bus. A se­nior ANC source in Par­lia­ment said: “They are pissed off – all of them, in­clud­ing mem­bers who were in that Nkandla com­mit­tee. Peo­ple are feel­ing used and abused.”

City Press un­der­stands that some of the mem­bers of the ad hoc com­mit­tee who worked on Po­lice Min­is­ter Nathi Nh­leko’s Nkandla re­port con­fronted ANC chief whip Stone Sizani last week at a meet­ing held af­ter Zuma an­nounced that he wanted an in­de­pen­dent de­ter­mi­na­tion of what he should re­pay for the non-se­cu­rity up­grades.

“Their words were: ‘The ANC has thrown us un­der the bus!’ They lost it,” said an MP.

City Press learnt this week that dur­ing its work last year, the Nkandla ad hoc com­mit­tee pro­posed con­tract­ing a se­cu­rity ex­pert to in­de­pen­dently de­ter­mine the cost of Nkandla’s non-se­cu­rity fea­tures, but this was shot down by the ANC’s political com­mit­tee, which man­ages the party’s strat­egy in Par­lia­ment.

‘But we told you to pay!’

Now MPs feel that, had they been al­lowed to go ahead, they would have ar­rived at an amount to pay with­out be­ing hu­mil­i­ated in court this week.

City Press has spo­ken to 14 sources in the ANC, 10 of whom are MPs, fol­low­ing Tues­day’s tec­tonic ca­pit­u­la­tion by Pres­i­dent Zuma in the Con­sti­tu­tional Court, where his ad­vo­cate, Jeremy Gauntlett, con­ceded that Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela’s re­port was bind­ing and the pres­i­dent would pay back some of the money.

This de­spite Par­lia­ment pro­duc­ing two re­ports to os­ten­si­bly clear the pres­i­dent of wrong­do­ing.

In ad­di­tion, Gauntlett asked the court not to find that the pres­i­dent was in breach of his oath of of­fice, as that would open him up to im­peach­ment in Par­lia­ment.

One MP who was part of the Nkandla com­mit­tee con­firmed the ef­fort to ar­rive at an ear­lier de­ter­mi­na­tion of what the pres­i­dent owed, but con­firmed they had been ve­toed by the ANC’s political com­mit­tee.

ANC MP Cedric Frol­ick, who chaired the Nkandla ad hoc com­mit­tee, and who sources have claimed was part of a group of MPs who quizzed Sizani, was tight-lipped.

“We are not go­ing to dis­cuss the Nkandla mat­ter un­til it’s been han­dled by the court,” said Frol­ick. “We re­spect the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers. The mat­ter is be­fore the courts.”

Speak­ing at a New Age break­fast gath­er­ing on Fri­day, Zuma said that pay­ing back the money did not mean that he ad­mit­ted any wrong­do­ing, and he had never said he was un­will­ing to pay.

“I hear peo­ple say I changed my mind. I have not. How could I pay when I did not know how much? I never said I would not pay in any for­mal set­ting.”

Spokesper­son for the ANC cau­cus Moloto Mothapo de­nied any un­hap­pi­ness in the ANC, say­ing: “I am not aware of any dis­plea­sure from our MPs.” He added that the party was await­ing the out­come of the court case and would re­spect the rul­ing.

That’s not the end

How­ever, ANC MPs are ex­pected to vent their anger at next Thurs­day’s cau­cus meet­ing and it is ex­pected that the is­sue will also be raised at the party’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) meet­ing next month.

“The next NEC meet­ing is the one that is likely to see this mat­ter com­ing to the fore,” said an MP.

An al­liance in­sider said many peo­ple were an­gry be­cause “they ad­vised him to pay long be­fore. The ANC top six also ad­vised that”.

He said the anger was di­rected at the fact that Zuma chose to lis­ten to a lawyer this week, but dis­re­garded the same ad­vice from the ANC years ago.

“Once Zuma is un­der pres­sure, he changes with­out tak­ing you into his con­fi­dence,” said the in­sider. He said Madon­sela’s Nkandla re­port had pro­vided a golden op­por­tu­nity, be­cause she had not pre­scribed an amount to be re­paid, “so he could have eas­ily paid back then”.

“In­stead, Nh­leko is now left with egg on his face. He had to be roped in to make up sto­ries to pro­tect the pres­i­dent, only to be tossed aside now and have his re­port dis­re­garded.”

An­other Nkandla ad hoc com­mit­tee mem­ber said it was in­cor­rect for Zuma’s lawyer to tell the Con­sti­tu­tional Court that Nh­leko’s re­port had no le­gal stand­ing, as Nh­leko had been act­ing on the rec­om­men­da­tions of Par­lia­ment.

The MP said that Gauntlett’s ut­ter­ances un­der­mined Par­lia­ment, “which reigns supreme”.

“All th­ese peo­ple, the pres­i­dent, the chap­ter 9 in­sti­tu­tions and Nh­leko, ac­count to Par­lia­ment. You can’t rub­bish Par­lia­ment and Nh­leko. Chap­ter 9 in­sti­tu­tions ac­count to Par­lia­ment, not vice versa. Nh­leko acted on the rec­om­men­da­tions of the se­cond ad hoc com­mit­tee on Nkandla,” said the MP.

“This thing hu­mil­i­ates the [whole] ANC more than any­one else. I mean the en­tire party, min­is­ters and the Speaker [Baleka Mbete] as leader in Par­lia­ment. She [is meant to] brief the cau­cus and chair­per­sons of [par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tees] based on her prox­im­ity and ac­cess to the pres­i­dent.”

Two ANC MPs said Zuma was not obliged to in­form the party cau­cus of his change in le­gal strat­egy.

City Press has also learnt that the first time ad­vo­cates Lindi Nkosi-Thomas and Wil­liam Mokhari dis­cov­ered Zuma’s le­gal strat­egy had changed was when Ad­vo­cate Jeremy Gauntlett ad­dressed the court.

The two ex­pe­ri­enced silks were left floun­der­ing and em­bar­rassed.

“Their ar­gu­ments just didn’t al­low for that [change],” a source close to the case told City Press. “That’s why they were wrong-footed, be­cause they had an ally who hadn’t told them [about the change] – not only an ally, but the man they had been pro­tect­ing hadn’t told them.”

Sources close to Nh­leko and Mbete’s coun­sel told City Press that Gauntlett’s con­ces­sions went di­rectly against their line of de­fence.

“Nh­leko’s coun­sel, Wil­liam Mokhari, and Mbete’s coun­sel, Lindi NkosiThomas, were go­ing to ar­gue ac­cess to the court and chal­lenge the le­gal stand­ing of the rec­om­men­da­tions. This, how­ever, changed when Gauntlett made con­ces­sions,” said a source close to Mokhari and Nkosi-Thomas.

“They were taken by sur­prise when they heard the con­ces­sions in court. That ren­dered their ar­gu­ments base­less, and they could not even get briefs from their clients.”

Mokhari be­trayed his be­wil­der­ment by say­ing in court: “In the past few days, the train has been mov­ing too fast, al­most leav­ing us be­hind.”

A se­cond source close to the case said: “I think Gauntlett def­i­nitely threw them un­der the bus. Big con­ces­sions were made while he was on his feet.”

The change in tac­tic has been in­ter­preted by those close to the case as Zuma’s gen­uine fear that his pres­i­dency could be un­der threat.

“This is a del­i­cate time in a dan­ger­ous year,” Gauntlett pleaded with the court. “If this court rules against the pres­i­dent, it leaves the door wide open to im­peach­ment.”

An­other source close to the case said: “The ques­tion of im­peach­ment hadn’t been men­tioned … It was be­wil­der­ing that Gauntlett men­tioned it when no one had even hinted at it in pa­pers, and it seemed to sig­nal a real fear.”

“What they seem to have de­cided to do was to make a con­ces­sion to pay back the money, but to at all costs avoid a declara­tory or­der that they had vi­o­lated the Con­sti­tu­tion,” said the first source.

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court has not yet set a date for judg­ment, but the sources said that de­spite Gauntlett’s slew of con­ces­sions, there was no guar­an­tee the court would pull its punches.

Drama in court

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