Opposition walks out
Say committee on Nkandla is designed to shield Zuma
PARLIAMENT — Opposition parties yesterday withdr ew fr om the p arliamentary committee on Nkandla, saying they would not legitimise a process they claimed w as de signed t o shield President Jacob Zuma from liability for abuse of s tate funds.
“The opposition will not legitimise this blatant undermining of the Constitution f or the pr otection of one man,” the p arties said.
The ANC’s 65 majority on the committee means however that it still has a quorum and the party said it would proceed with its work without the opposition ne xt Tuesday.
They walked out after the ruling party refused to agree to call Zuma to answer questions and t o enforce Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s directive that he repay a portion of R246 million spent on refurbishing his private home at Nk andla.
The ruling p arty maint ained that there was no need t o call witne sses, that Zuma would not have been aware of wrongdoing by officials, and that it had the right to recommend different corrective action.
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema r aised the thr eat that the opposition w ould withdr aw on Thursday night aft er nine hour s of heated debate failed to resolve a deadlock on the se is sues.
When the committee convened yesterday morning, senior ANC MP Mathole M otshekga sought t o a vert a walkout by stalling a vote and calling for one mor e s tab at c onsensus.
But he then exasperated the opposition by arguing that though the Constitution offered a high degree of protection to Madonsela’s office, it did not apply t o the r eports she pr oduced.
Freedom Front Plus MP Corné Mulder termed it “a dir ect at tack on the person of the public pr otector” who has been at loggerheads with Zuma since she chastised him last month for failing to r espond dir ectly t o her r eport.
EFF MP Godrich Gardee added that it meant the ANC was poised to revise the document that f ound Zuma had derived undue benefit fr om the project, and c ountered: “We ar e not the r elevant authorit y, it can onl y be done b y a c ourt of la w”.
Motshekga also r eiterated that Zuma was right to respond to Madonsela that he was not obliged to rubberstamp her findings, and rejected the opposition’s call to seek an independent legal opinion. H e said bet ween them, the committee members counted many legal qualifications, including his o wn doctorate in the field.
Gardee protested: “There is no sane legal mind that will come and give the interpretation gi ven by the pr esident of the powers of the public pr otector, which is w hat y ou ar e doing as f oot soldiers.”
After t woandahalf hour s in this vein, Democratic Allianc e parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane concluded: “We ha ve r eached an imp asse … What is clear to me, what is very apparent, is that the ANC is not g oing t o agree to anything. They jus t want us to run a ritual.
“We cannot proceed on this le vel,” he said before leading the DA, EFF, FF Plus, Inkatha Freedom Party and African Christian Democratic Party out of the meeting .
Afterwards, ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude accused the opposition of acting in b ad faith and said it w as clear the parties never meant to participate meaningfull y “t o as sist P arliament to arrive at sound r esolutions”.
The opposition said at a joint media briefing the moment was a watershed and accused the ANC of subverting the role of P arliament.
Malema r ecalled ANC secr etarygeneral Gwede Mantashe’s comments to the media earlier this week, that Parliament must protect Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa from insult and at tack. He said the w alkout was “a serious political s tep” and raised the spectr e of the opposition leaving Parliament entirely if the ANC did not allow the legislature to perform proper o versight.
“You run a risk of people withdrawing c ompletely fr om P arliament because there is no meaningful role they would pla y in P arliament.
“I don’t think the ANC will pride itself f or t aking p art in a P arliament that has no opposition presence. Actually they might be f orced t o c ollapse and go to elections, but there is no motion about it on the t able no w.”
The DA said the parties would now focus on settling the debate around the powers of the public pr otector, and if necessary go to court to hold Zuma to account for the Nk andla controversy.
DA f ederal e xecutive chairper son James Selfe said the upc oming Western Cape High Court ruling on the case of contested SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng would prove pivotal. In that case, the DA sought an urgent interdict f orcing the S ABC to suspend M otsoeneng, w ho w as appointed t o the pos t permanentl y de spite M adonsela’s finding that the public broadcaster should replace him within 90 da ys.
“The is sues in la w ar e absolut ely identical,” he said, adding that a ruling was e xpected shortl y.
Selfe said if the DA did not win that case, it w ould take the mat ter all the way t o the C onstitutional C ourt t o seek clarity on the status of the office of the public pr otector. — S apa. JOHANNESBURG — The Energy Department y esterday declined t o c omment on a r eport that President Jacob Zuma took control of a R1trillion nuclear deal, negotiated directly with Russian president Vladimir Putin, and instructed Ener gy Minis ter Tina J oematPettersson t o sign it.
“We can’t speak on that. It is unfair that you ask the dep artment for comment,” spokesperson Johannes Mokobane said. “The presidency must speak on that p articular mat ter.”
Presidency spok esperson M ac M aharaj could not immediately be reached for c omment.
Yesterday, the Mail & Guar dian quoted an ANC source saying that Zuma took control of the deal, ironed out the details with Putin on the sideline s of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA) summit in B razil in J uly, and finalised it in M oscow las t month.
Sources t old the ne wspaper Zuma subsequently ins tructed J oematPettersson to sign the deal on the sidelines of the Int ernational A tomic Ener gy Agency c onference in V ienna.
It r eported that Zuma did not t ake the ANC’s national executive committee into his c onfidence on the mat ter, and only gave details to his most trusted cabinet minis ters and MP s.
This w eek, it w as announc ed that Russia had clinched a deal to build nuclear reactors in South Africa. Some details of the cooperation agreement — to suppl y as man y as eight nuclear plants — were announced in joint statements by the Ener gy Department and Russia’s at omic ener gy c orporation, Rosatom. — S apa.