Nkandla report is ‘stonewalling’
R215m later, and more security must be installed
OUTRAGE met Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko’s Nkandla report justifying a cattle kraal, chicken run, amphitheatre, swimming pool and visitors’ centre as crucial security measures at President Jacob Zuma’s rural homestead – and therefore not for his account.
Described as a “white-wash”, an “insult” and a “low point”, opposition parties yesterday slammed the 50-page document.
As civil society organisations criticised the report, political commentators said it was a miscalculation to think the Nkandla debacle now would be closed, even as the report showed up weaknesses in the country’s political system.
Already having cost the taxpayer R215 million, it also emerged more security features would have to be installed at Nkandla: motion detectors and cameras were not put in place, pending the release of this report. Yesterday neither Nhleko nor Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi could put a figure to the still outstanding costs. “We don’t know. We will just rely on the police what needs to be done,” Nxesi said.
The report was limited in scope, acknowledged Nhleko, as it dealt only with the features described in the March 2014 public protector’s “Secure in Comfort” report. The swimming pool, cattle kraal, chicken run, amphitheatre and visitors’ centre were deemed non-security features “unduly” benefiting the president and his family, and thus at least some of their costs should be repaid, according to the public protector.
By arguing that all the features served “important” and “clear” security purposes, Nhleko’s report determines no repayment for non-security upgrades is due because there were no non-security upgrades.
Centre for the Study of Democracy director Steven Friedman said the report continued the same “blank stonewalling” pattern since the start of the Nkandla debacle several years ago: “They simply decided to tough it out and close ranks”.
However, that strategy made little sense as pressure was unlikely to go away. “It might have made more sense to have a report (saying) it’s quite clear the president was an entirely innocent victim (but the public protector said he should repay something) and as a splendid gesture he’ll repay something.”
Friedman added the report showed that what went on in Parliament was “all about (political parties) talking to the electorate”.
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said this report highlighted the extent of the weak state of South Africa’s political system
with the dominance of one political party.
“We already have a problem of mistrust in the relationship between many citizens and the government, between many citizens and the president. What this report does is to either maintain the current levels of mistrust, or worsen them,” he said. “The citizens and political parties are ineffective as agents of restraint (on the ruling party).”
The real question was whether government cared what citizens thought, said Matshiqi: “I don’t think so. This performance suggests they don’t”.
Opposition parties roundly rejected the report.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the minister’s “white-wash report” showed “President Zuma’s henchmen will do anything to shield the president from his responsibility”, likening the decision that the president did not have to pay a cent as “grand theft of the highest level”.
The EFF, which brought the “Pay back the money” campaign and slogan to Parliament, rejected the report as a “failed propaganda spin” by a minister who the president appointed. “The EFF does not buy all the stories, bioskops and cultural idioms used to cover up the truth. We warned long ago that the delay in publishing the cost of non-security features was because cabinet was cooking the report to try and protect the corruption of Jacob Zuma,” said party spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the report took the country back to square one: pay back the money. “It (the report) has not done them (ANC and government) any good,” Holomisa said. “Who will have the guts to say to the king as the induna you have to pay… The sheer arrogance of power!”
IFP chief whip Narend Singh said the report was an “insult (to) the intelligence of all South Africans”, adding its was not a surprise from a minister who serves at the pleasure of the president: “This is tantamount to Colonel Sanders asking his chickens to vote on whether or not they would like to be slaughtered.”
Freedom Front Plus leader Dr Pieter Mulder said the report was “unbelievable”, and that the president should have been asked to repay something, even if just in a gesture of goodwill.
“It is a total white-wash. I think they will get away with it… in the short time. But Nkandla is his legacy. We will remember Zuma for Nkandla,” he added. “The most stupid man will see through this.”
The Council for the Advancement of South African Constitution said it was inevitable the Nkandla saga would end up in court.