ANC: In defence of President Zuma, again and again

The ANC has, again, and as it always does, expectedly so, come to President Jacob Zuma’s defence that calls by Julius Malema that he should be criminally charged for the irregular expenditure at his Nkandla private residence “is a typical ridiculous drivel which we [ANC] dismiss outrightly”.

The ruling party says the remarks by Malema today are a clear indication that he made no effort to study all Nkandla investigation reports that are now before the established ad hoc committee tasked with further investigating this matter, especially the response of the President.

According to the ANC, the remarks by Malema are a “dereliction of duty on his part as an MP and a bona fide member of the ad hoc committee to go into meeting unprepared and relying solely on media clippings as a source of information.” “This”, said ANC in a statement this afternoon, “flies in the face of an agreement in the last committee meeting that members must thoroughly study all reports before the committee to enhance the quality of their input in today’s meeting.”

It accused Malema of making statements that have no “no substance”, adding he would have found his comments “absurd” had bothered to read now all three reports by the Public Protector, the Ministerial Task Team and the Special Investigation Unit. The ruling party reminded Malema that it was in fact the Public Protector’s report that cleared the President of any wrongdoing, saying:

1) The State had not spent any money on the private residence of the President in Nkandla
2) The President did not mislead Parliament (when he said the state had not paid for upgrades that he and his family had started building prior to the upgrades by the state)
3) There was no political interference in the implementation of the Prestige Project
4) The State did not pay for the improvement in the dwellings of the brothers of President Jacob Zuma

The party added that all the three reports had not suggested or implied that the President had “acted criminally” as suggested by Malema.

As someone who had read all three reports – unlike Malema, as suggested by the ruling party – there are a few things that all reports failed to shed light on. This is partly because of the President’s inadequate answers to questions asked especially by the Public Protector and the SIU.

In some instances, the President flatly and tacitly refused to answer these questions which would have enabled the investigations by both the SIU and the Public Protector to make informed findings and recommendations. It is therefore wrong – at least in my view – to unquestionably dismiss the allegations by Malema without addressing where they come from.

I could be wrong, but I would have imagined that in light of the remarks by Malema, the ruling party would have, and reasonably so, asked Malema to submit whatever proof at his disposal that would prove the allegations he made that the President may have benefited (criminally) from the upgrades made at his private residence at Nkandla. But no. The party won’t even dare engage Malema on his allegations against the President. Why? I don’t know.

Could this be another attempt – perceived or not – by the ruling ANC to shield the President from responsibility and accountability as it has previously been accused in Parliament of doing by opposition parties and members of the public too? Well, the ANC, given this and many other precious public statements on this matter, thinks otherwise. Or so it seems.

Interestingly, pg343 of the Public Protector notes that President “declined the opportunity to respond to the allegation that he misled Parliament by making a false statement about the financing of the private development at his private residence and referred me to Parliament in this regard”.

The Public Protector further adds that the President also “declined [her] the opportunity to have access to his bond documents. However, with the assistance of the Director-General of the Presidency, I established on 17 December 2013 from the Register of Financial Interests that the President has declared a mortgage bond in respect of his private residence at Nkandla since 2009. I was also given the assurance by the President’s legal team that the mortgage bond is still in place”.

Worryingly, the Public Protector said in her report released in March 2014 that the President “did not (or tactically refused to) respond to [her] questions” in connection with:

1) Whether he or the Presidency requested that security measures be installed at his private residence;
2) Whether he was at any stage informed of the cost of the proposed security measures;
3) Whether a notice declaring his private residence a National Key Point was served on him;
4) What he understood to be his responsibilities as the owner of a National Key Point;
5) What measures he took to secure his private residence as required by the National Key Points Act;
6) Whether he was advised that some of the cost of securing his private residence as a National Key Point would be recovered from him;
7) Whether he was presented by Mr Makhanya with the designs of the project;
8) Whether he received the letter consisting of a detailed report on the progress made with the project that was addressed to him by former Minister Mahlangu-Nkabinde on 5 November 2010;
9) Whether he received the document setting out the apportionment of cost for the project that was prepared by the DPW;
10) Whether Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu discussed the conversion of the fire-pool to a swimming pool with him and whether he was aware of the reasons for this conversion;
11) Whether he was consulted about the relocation of the households that were affected by the implementation of the project;
12) Whether he was opposed to more contractors working on the site during phase 2 of the project;
13) Whether Deputy-Minister Bogopane-Zulu discussed the design of the Military Clinic with him;
14) Whether he would be willing to disclose the amount that he paid for the construction of the new dwellings on his property;
15) How often he uses his private residence for official business
16) Why he would prefer using his private residence for official business rather than one of the official residences available to him;
17) Whether he at any stage enquired into the cost of the project; and
18) If not, whether he as the head of state did not feel obliged to do so as a substantial amount of public money was obviously being spent.

Even more interestingly, it is the President’s failure to adequately answer the above questions – and those of the SIU – that led to the Public Protector being unable 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”.

Given this, it is very difficult, at least in my view, to confidently say – as the ANC seemingly appears to be doing – that the state “has not spent any money on the private residence of the President in Nkandla” or that the state “did not pay for the improvement in the dwellings of the brothers of President Jacob Zuma”.

Or is it not?

Well, unless you’re Jacob Zuma and President of the biggest liberation movement in Africa, if not in the world.

See further questions by the Public Protector and the SIU that the President dismally and adequately failed to respond to.

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