Following the on-site visit to the private residential compound of President Jacob Zuma to Nkandla yesterday, it is abundantly clear that all political parties agree that an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money has been poured down the drain at Nkandla. Despite the general acceptance of this fact, the ANC in the Ad Hoc Committee is inexplicably determined to ensure President Zuma is absolved of all liability in this regard.
The fact is that almost a quarter of a billion Rand of taxpayers money has already been spent on these upgrades, for very little added value by way of security measures. Some of these upgrades undoubtedly add value to the President’s private residence.
It is important to remember that these upgrades were made to the private residence of the President. He has several residences at his disposal to reside in securely, and in which to receive and entertain foreign and domestic dignitaries. It is not a requirement that the President accept each and every security upgrade, and certainly not to this exorbitant amount at the taxpayers expense.
It has become apparent that the ruling party is intent on exonerating the President from any liability, and intends on simply confirming the contents of the report of the Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, despite its very glaring shortcomings. It is also irrational and unconstitutional to try to substitute remedial action ordered by the Public Protector with a report by a member of President Zuma’s Cabinet.
Documents upon which the Minister said he relied in the production of his report where supplied rather belatedly, and only when requested. When the Minister finally presented the documents they were incomplete and did not contain all the information to which the Minister had previously referred.
From the documents, it emerges that the President requested the removal of the police officers that were staying on his property. It was as a result of that request that caused the 21 houses allegedly costing R135 million to be constructed. This was despite the Minister of Police telling the committee that this aspect needed further investigation and confirmation.
The fact of the matter is that Minister Nhleko’s report is- amoung other things- manifestly irrational, at odds with the Constitution and should be rejected by the committee.
If President Zuma takes exception to the Public Protector’s report and the remedial action therein expressed it is for him to approach the courts by way of a review application to have her remedial actions set aside, not to commission a member of his Cabinet to contradict it. The Police Minister’s conflict of interest notwithstanding, his report is unconstitutional.
Therefore, in the absence of any legal challenge by President Zuma to have the Public Protectors findings and remedial actions set aside, it remains that he “unduly benefitted” and must “pay back a reasonable portion” for these upgrades.
The ANC in the committee persisted in attempting to depict the President as the victim in these proceedings. Nothing could be further from the truth. The facts are that R246 million has been spent on upgrading, improving and securing the private home of the President. Whether or not the work done is of good quality, and whether or not it is in fact lavish is irrelevant. The fact remains that the President has and will continue to receive the benefit thereof, long after he is no longer President.
Despite requests by most opposition parties, the committee seems to be determined to resist calling any witnesses apart from the Minister of Public Works and the Minister of Police to come and explain the myriad contradictions and lacunae in the various reports and the reactions thereto. This is designed solely to protect the President, and to ensure that at the finalisation of the work of the Committee, the President is again exonerated.
Issued by James Selfe, James Selfe is Chairperson of DA Federal Council and Shadow Minister of Correctional Services