The ANC response to the release of the Public Protector report into President Jacob Zuma’s private residence at Nkandla yesterday was quite weird.
The party’s reaction immediate response(for which Zuma is also a President) by calling a press conference later that day at 4pm to respond to the report long even before government could respond was weird. This was however later shifted to Thursday at 10am so as to give government an opportunity to respond first (which it later on Wednesday).
As usual – just as it was with government in its response to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into the Nkandla saga and its investigation into the same matter, a report it only released in December last year following an extensive public pressure and criticism – and while questioning the timing of the Public Protector report as “a source of concern in terms of the disruptive effect it will have on the election [on 7 May] campaign of all parties”, the ANC maintained that government had “not spent any money on the private dwellings of the President in Nkandla”.
The ANC went further to defend the President, saying “he did not mislead Parliament” when he said “he built his own home and that he has a bond [with one of the banks]” which Public Protector acknowledged in her report. However, and unless I am confused with the Public Protector’s report itself (which I doubt), the ruling party maintains government had “not spent any money on the private dwellings of the President in Nkandla”. However, in her report, the Public Protector said “Regarding the allegation that the President may have misled Parliament and accordingly violated the Executive Ethics Code when he announced that the renovations at his private residence were financed through a bank mortgage bond, I am unable to make a finding. Although having established through the Register of Financial Interests that the President has declared a mortgage bond in respect of his private residence at Nkandla since 2009, I am not able to establish if costs relating to his private renovations were separated from those of the state in the light of using the same contractors around the same time and the evidence of one invoice that had conflated the costs although with no proof of payment.”
So the fact that the Public Protector could not “establish if costs relating to [the President’s] private renovations were separated from those of the state in the light of using the same contractors around the same time and the evidence of one invoice that had conflated the costs although with no proof of payment” does not mean that that government did “not spent any money on the private dwellings of the President in Nkandla”. This because the Public Protector further noted in her report that indeed “funds were reallocated from the Inner City Regeneration and the Dolomite Risk Management Programmes of the DPW [to the Nkandla project”. Due to a “lack of proper demand management and planning”, the Public Protector said “service delivery programmes of the DPW were negatively affected”.
The Public Protector added that this negligence by the Department of Public Works (DPW) is “in violation of section 237 of the Constitution and the Batho Pele White Paper and accordingly constitutes improper conduct and maladministration.” It is therefore impossible to come to the same conclusion to which the ruling party did: that government had “not spent any money on the private dwellings of the President in Nkandla” even more so when neither government, Zuma or Madonsela could “establish if costs relating to his private renovations were separated from those of the state in the light of using the same contractors around the same time” and that the evidence of one invoice… had conflated the costs although with no proof of payment.”
That the President “did not mislead Parliament… [when he said]… he built his own home and that he has a bond [with one of the banks]” – that cannot be disputed. As his private residence and an owner, I think the President was negligent in giving such a response in Parliament. This because he should have known, ensured and taken measures to ensure that his response is able to make this clear distinction that even the Public Protector could not make. It still boggles my mind why the Public Protector was soft on this particular aspect of her report on the President.
On that claim that government “did not pay for the improvements in the dwellings of the brothers” of the President – this is accepted. But the fact that government failure will result in the brothers – and or the President’s family benefiting indirectly benefiting – is a very serious concern and should not be disregard out-rightly although nothing can be done at this stage as the concerned officials were negligence and often ignorant and did not care of the costs of the entire government project at Nkandla.
While the ANC is not a government, technically, and therefore not respond on any authority except as President’s party, the fact that it seems to justify the building of the cattle kraal, the chicken run, the visitor’s centre, the swimming pool, and the so-called amphitheatre – the very same things that the Public Protector indicated are/were not security measures nor formed part of the security assessments, costs of which were therefore negligence and resulted in misappropriation of our taxes and therefore maladministration – is worrisome.
NB: Please note that the above is my view to aspects of the ANC statement ONLY and that this will partly form part of my detailed response to the Public Protector report in the Nkandla in the coming days.