Nkandla debate rekindled by DA

ANC played for time on Nkandla issue….

The ANC used its hefty majority in the last Parliament to filibuster any full debate on Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on Nkandla by calling for such debate to be after the election and thus by a new ad hoc committee when and if the next Parliament formed such a body.

The DA has already called upon the new Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to enable a fresh ad mbetehoc committee to be formed and the debate re-started.

The committee was originally established by the now past Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, to debate the R246m upgrade to President Zuma’s homestead in Kwa-Zulu Natal.   The Nkandla issue is at present an inconclusive subject relying purely upon Thuli Madonsela’s findings and not that of Parliament.

Delaying by inaction

The ad hoc committee was established in terms of ATC notice 45 of 2014, dated 9 April, and a delaying tactic was used by the ANC whilst it took eight days of the allocated ten day mandate for the sitting just to name its seven representatives on the ad-hoc committee.

Eventually, only two days of debate took place, the first to elect a chairperson who turned out to be Cedric Frolick of the ANC, with seven MPs from the ANC, two from the Democratic Alliance and one each from the IFP and FF+.    The ANC maintained at the first meeting that they had received insufficient time to study the report.

They referred to the fact that the then Speaker’s notice called for the ad hoc committee to make its findings known by April 30, the date already then being late April.   Again much time was wasted in the first meeting around the decision to allow a COPE party MP to attend the meeting, participate in the debate but have no vote. The COPE member appointed had a legal and constitutional background.

Give money back

The IFP said it wanted the President to be called to expand on why, when the Public Protector had “castigated government officials in the way they handled the Nkandla development” and called on him to refund large sums of money, “it was necessary to wait for the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to report before he responded”.   The IFP thought that the SIU should be called to Parliament as well to explain their findings.

The IFP questioned whether the committee would be able to give adequate attention to the matter by 30 April, time for input also being required from the Parliamentary legal advisors in summation. The DA also called for the Public Protector herself to give evidence, since she had already declared her willingness to do this.

President wanted by DA to appear

On the second day of debate, the DA, again represented by Lindiwe Mazibuko and James Selfe, called for the President himself to appear before the committee.   The IFP added the point that surely the President must have been aware of “things taking place in his back yard and… should not shy away from responsibility”.   The DA presented in writing a full programme for the committee to undertake urgently.

buti manamelaThe ANC, led by ANC  Buti Manamela, national secretary of the Young Communist League, then argued that the ANC also wanted to call certain parties to give evidence and as there was insufficient time left to handle all such visits, the DA’s suggestions were therefore impractical given the mandate of ten days.

To this the DA argued that they were only short of time because the ANC had taken eight days to nominate and co-opt members of the committee whereas all opposition parties had taken one day.   The ANC did not respond to this.

Mazibuko’s last appearance

In response to the ANC’s point that Thuli Madonsela, as Public Protector, had finished reporting and it was not for parliamentarians to query her findings,  DA’s Mazibuko said her party was outraged because the Public Protector herself admitted in her report there were a number of unanswered questions on which she was unable to get clarity. The DA said they would like her to articulate on this to Parliament.

Also, Mazibuko said, the President in his letter of response to the Speaker, Max Sisulu, had referred to “stark differences” between the findings of the Public Protector and the inter-Ministerial committee, which was also set up to investigate the issue.   Both therefore should also give evidence if the committee were to highlight what the President referred to as “differences”.

No time

At this point chair Cedric Frolick said there was indeed insufficient time left, whatever the reason, to undertake such a programme as envisaged by the DA.

After caucusing, the ANC members tabled a proposal for a vote that the matter should be closed for the present and left over for the fifth Parliament of South Africa to further, choosing not to vote on a DA proposal asking for the President to attend.    They said there was insufficient time before the elections took place and that opposition parties were “playing to the gallery” as part of electioneering.

Motion that President misled Parliament

The DA then asked that a further motion be adopted, if the debate was to be ended, demanding that the fifth Parliament investigate whether the President deliberately misled Parliament; whether he had violated the Constitution; whether he had benefited improperly from the work at his residence; any remedial steps to be taken and whether the President should be removed from office in terms of section 89 of the Constitution.

This motion was defeated by an overwhelming majority, the ANC arguing that the fifth Parliament could not be bound by such questions from outgoing members and the ANC motion instead was adopted….. “that although the ANC considered the matter as serious, there was insufficient time left and the matter be simply deferred for the fifth Government to decide on future action.”    This quashed any chance of further debate at the time.

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