Friday, April 18, 2014

Election ribbon cutting and "good stories"

No legal challenge to Nkandla report - Mbete

Cape Town - There are no plans to legally challenge Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report on Nkandla, ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete said on Thursday.

"We have not taken such a decision," she told reporters in Cape Town.

There were also no plans to take action against Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa for his role in the security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma's private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.

"Again, we have taken no such decision."

Madonsela found that Mthethwa's declaration of the homestead as a national key point amounted to improper conduct and maladministration.

This finding formed part of her final report, released last month, on the security upgrades totalling R246m.

She found that Zuma and his family unduly benefited from the upgrades, and said Zuma should pay back a portion of the cost.

Mbete said Madonsela's report and a report released by government's task team were largely similar in context, and that Zuma was found to have not lied to Parliament.

The ANC agreed that the escalating cost of Nkandla had to be probed because there was "too much of this culture" in government, and the public works department in particular.

However, it believed some of Madonsela's remarks amounted to interference in terms of African tradition.

"A lot was clarified, in fact, by Thuli's report. She then goes on to say a few things which, in our view, are actually debatable because in the African tradition you don't interfere with a man's kraal.

"The issue of a man's kraal or a kraal of a family is a holy space."

She said security experts had looked at his KwaZulu-Natal home from a security perspective and shifted it in such a way that did not benefit the family.

"And Thuli says: 'No, they benefited and, therefore, President Zuma ought to think of paying some money'. We beg to differ very strongly, very, very strongly."

The tuckshop of Zuma's first wife, Ma Khumalo, had to be moved from where it had been for many years to an inconvenient spot far away because of security considerations.

Mbete questioned how this could have benefited the family.

"It's a longer distance that she now has to walk. It's a tinier space and those who have seen it say it doesn't look like a five-star shop or anything."

Public urged to calm down

She said visitors to Nkandla had noted Ma Khumalo's negative feelings about the "attention, noise and intrusion into their private family space".

Mbete asked the public to "calm down" until the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had released its report on the matter because it would reveal who was responsible.

National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu announced last week that an ad hoc Parliamentary committee on Nkandla would be set up.

Its mandate is to consider Zuma's response to Madonsela's report and make recommendations, where applicable.

Zuma reacted to Madonsela's report earlier this month, saying he would give a substantive response once the SIU had completed its probe.

On Monday, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko accused the ANC of deliberately trying to delay the committee's work by not submitting the names of its members who would serve on it.

But Mbete said choosing the best qualified people took time.

"I can tell you my personal experience of getting names from the ANC. It's a pain... the ANC is a huge monster," she said.

"It takes forever... because you often have to convene the appropriate structure that is supposed to take such a decision."

She said it was not a deliberate move and one had to keep in mind that people were campaigning all over the country.

"However, I would also maybe dare to comment that at this point, that committee would have very little to consider.

"It would be best when finally the SIU report is on the table and the president has actually given us a comprehensive response, then it would be in a much better space for such a committee to look at something more substantive."


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ANC stalls committee probing Nkandla

OPPOSITION hopes that the special parliamentary committee established to probe the Nkandla scandal would begin work this week were dashed on Monday when it emerged that the ANC in the National Assembly would only nominate its members on April 23.

In the clearest indication yet that the ANC in Parliament will close ranks in the committee to protect President Jacob Zuma, it was learned that the ANC would leave the committee a scant seven days to complete its work.

When National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu announced the establishment of an ad hoc committee to probe Mr Zuma’s response to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on the R246m upgrade to his private home, he gave the committee until April 30 to complete its work.

The rules of Parliament allow political parties 10 working days to nominate their representatives to an ad hoc committee. The ANC’s intention to use the full time allowed in the rules will seriously limit the amount of work the committee can do.

Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko has expressed her outrage at "the ANC’s attempts to delay the start of the ad hoc committee".

"We have confirmed this morning that the ANC have yet to submit the names of their members who will serve on the committee — more than four days after it was announced. Until this happens, and all names are reflected in Parliament’s Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC) document, the ad hoc committee cannot begin its work."

ANC caucus spokesman Moloto Mothapo insists that the ANC is simply following procedures.

He acknowledges that the deadlines were tight "but the issue of how many days are left is not anyone’s fault, that is the process".

Ms Mazibuko says she has sent an urgent letter to Mr Sisulu urging him to ensure that the ad hoc committee meets this week.

"Indeed, since the ad hoc committee must report back to Parliament by April 30 2014, time is of the essence. To delay it by just one day is to undermine the important task it must complete in a very short period of time. The ANC is clearly running scared and now doing everything possible to protect President Zuma.

"They know that it is impossible to defend the spending of nearly R250m of public money to build President Zuma a palace in Nkandla. They know too that the powers of the committee are such that it will be able to force answers — which to date President Zuma refuses to provide," said Ms Mazibuko.

"This delay is a great disservice to Parliament and the constitution, and undermines the office of the speaker — who established this committee, with a clear indication that it must start its work ‘as soon as possible’," she said.

State spent R7.9m on Nkandla relocations

CAPE TOWN — The government spent R7.9m to relocate four households neighbouring on President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla residence, as they were within a 50m radius, said Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi.

In reply to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance (DA), Mr Nxesi said similar security assessments done on the households of former presidents Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe and Thabo Mbeki had indicated that such removals were not necessary.

The news of the cost of the four removals comes as Parliament’s multiparty ad hoc committee to consider Mr Zuma’s response to the Public Protector’s report on the R246m security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead prepares for its first meeting this week. The committee will have to submit a report to Parliament by April 30.

Although the Nkandla security upgrades have been done since 2009, it was only when the security cluster of ministers released its report in December that it emerged that several households had been relocated. The probe could not put a number on the households.

Mr Nxesi’s parliamentary reply did not state where the households had been moved to.

DA MP Anchen Dreyer said on Sunday Mr Nxesi’s answer and the fact that four households were moved created further suspicion around the real intention behind the costly relocation. "Indeed, how can it be a security threat in one instance, but not in another?" she asked.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said in her report on the security upgrades done at taxpayer expense to Mr Zuma’s residence that she could not "find any authority or legitimate reason for classifying the relocation of the households at state expense as a security measure".

Ms Dreyer said her party would submit further parliamentary questions at the next available opportunity to get more details on the "security" concerns that warranted the removal of families at the public’s expense.

Girl, 4, trapped in burning shack

Cape Town - Neighbours tried in vain to rescue 4-year-old Yolanda Rigala who was trapped inside a burning shack in Wilhelmina Schaefer Street in Strand.

Fire broke out at about 4am on Sunday and swept through two backyard shacks, one of them occupied by Yolanda, her mother Thobeka Rigala and her 1-year-old sibling.

Fire and Rescue spokesmen said the fire was the result of a fallen candle.

Neighbours said the blaze was uncontrollable and had already destroyed the shack in which Yolanda had been sleeping with her family.

“We used everything we could find. The blaze prevented us from getting inside.

“After I woke up, I rushed outside and saw Thobeka at the door. She told me Yolanda was inside the shack. She was carrying her baby,” neighbour Thobela Kibido said yesterday.

He was among neighbours who tried to help save Yolanda.

“I don’t think there was anything else we could have done. We used everything to try and get inside, but it was too late.

“It is hard to accept the way she died. She was just a lovely child,” he said.

Yolanda attended a pre-school in Broadlands, Strand. She had been living in Strand for three months after arriving from the Eastern Cape.

Her mother, Thobeka, was too distraught to be interviewed on Monday.

Yolanda’s grandmother, Annelise Pampi, said the pain of their loss would last forever.

“She stayed with us most of the time and would only visit her mother during holidays. On Saturday, her mother came here and Yolanda wanted to leave with her. I told her she could not go with her mother, but she cried. I thought I should let her go because it was a weekend and she was not going to school the next day,” she said.

“She was happy when she left with her mother. She was a clever child.

“I was teaching her Afrikaans because our community is Afrikaans-speaking and she struggled to talk with the other children,” Pampi said.

“The way she died is hurtful.

“I still have her in my mind playing and dancing around the house. She was an active child who loved making jokes and having fun,” said Pampi.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Zuma built house in Nkandla with his own money, says Nzimande

"Zuma built his own house, he did not use taxpayers' money to build his house," Nzimande told the National Union of Minewokers' national shop stewards council in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.

"He never asked for those extra upgrades."

Nzimande said the homes of all previous South African presidents had also been upgraded.

Last month, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Zuma and his family had improperly benefited from R246 million security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead. This included a swimming pool, a cattle kraal and an amphitheatre.

Nzimande described Madonsel'a report as "white people's lies".

"Papers are the lies of a white man. We are not told the truth about Nkandla. It is being used as a political tool," he said.

Nzimande said his ministerial home in Cape Town was upgraded without his knowledge or permission.

"They changed the pavement because it did not match the colour of the house's wall and they put in a guard house larger than an RDP house," he said.

All ministers homes were upgraded and cost R100 million, he said.

Nzimande said he was tired of white people's lies.

Cope withdraws from Nkandla special committee

Cope has announced it will not form part of the special parliamentary commitee to investigate President Jacob Zuma's response to the Nkandla report.

The Congress of the People (Cope) will not be part of the special parliamentary committee established this week to scrutinise President Jacob Zuma's response to the public protector on her investigation of the upgrades at Zuma's Nkandla home.

Cope on Friday said it believes that instead of instituting further investigations on the Nkandla matter, Parliament and the state in general should be concerned with the implementation of public protector Thuli Madonsela's recommendations.

Madonsela had found that Zuma and his family had unduly benefited on the upgrading of his home and she called on him to pay back to the state a portion of the money spent on non-security measures such as the swimming pool, amphitheatre, and the cattle kraal with culvert and chicken run.

Cope national spokesperson Johann Abrie said Parliament should not have set up a committee to do more investigations, but that it should have pronounced itself on the implementation of remedial action and "not this waste of time".

The public protector is empowered by national legislation and chapter nine of the Constitution to investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper.

"Despite her patience with and respect for the office of the president, the first citizen dismissively delayed the investigation, either ignored or provided sloppy responses to some of the questions posed to him and laid to bare his unfaithful relationship with the truth.

"Frankly, President Zuma is so dishonest, we can't even be sure that what he is telling us are lies," Cope said in a statement.

A proper example
Cope said instead of setting a proper example as the custodian of our Constitution and commence with the implementation of the remedial action, Zuma "spends his time to engineer a cunning plan to outwit the public protector".

Abrie said the public protector report was "a meticulous 450-page body of evidence confirming to South Africans what we suspected all along".

Abrie said Cope decided to turn down National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu's courtesy of inviting them to take part in an ad-hoc committee that will process Madonsela's report.

"Cope is of the opinion that the implementation of this chapter nine institution's remedial action should not be circumvented by any institution, including Parliament.

"The public protector's order is that Zuma must pay for the non-security upgrades at his private dwelling which include the visitors' centre, an amphitheatre, a swimming pool, a cattle kraal, a culvert, a chicken run and extensive paving," said Abrie.

He said the sequence was not logical and Zuma should first comply with the findings and the order, which cannot be equal to or being override by the Special Investigative Unit's investigation.

"By participating in an ad-hoc committee, which will certainly be packed with a majority of President Zuma's most loyal batsmen, a dangerous precedent will be created to which the Congress of the People cannot be party to.

"At this time, our participation in a committee of this nature would be tantamount to assisting President Zuma avoiding his responsibility to uphold the Constitution," said Abrie.
He said they remain resolute that Zuma's conduct was not dissimilar to that of a person who came in possession of stolen goods, but refuse to return them to the rightful owners, the taxpayer.
Other political parties represented in Parliament, including the ruling ANC, have welcomed the establishment of the ad hoc committee.

Parliament had not responded on whether Cope's seat in the committee would be deferred to another party at the time of publishing.

- M&G

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nkandla findings final - protector

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela will not discuss her findings on Nkandla with the government's security cluster of ministers, her office said on Friday.

Spokesperson Kgalalelo Masibi confirmed that the office had received a letter from the cluster.

The ministers wanted clarification about her report on costly security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's home in Nkandla.

Masibi said Madonsela would be available to discuss why the State found the implementation of remedial action difficult or impossible.

"Her findings are, however, not issues for discussion."

Madonsela released her final report on the security upgrades totaling R246m last month.

She found that Zuma and his family unduly benefited from the upgrades, and said Zuma should pay back a portion of the cost.

On Tuesday, the government said the security ministers had studied the report but needed more information and clarification from Madonsela.

Masibi said on Friday Madonsela's comment was that her findings were final.

"The public protector's expectation is that remedial action be implemented and that there is no room to discuss her findings."


Reports of CPT homeless 'work camps' alarming

The Cape Argus on Friday published a shocking exposé on a new City of Cape Town plan to rid the city centre of people who live and make a living on the streets. Anyone who refuses to voluntarily participate in these "community village" rehabilitation programmes would be forcibly placed there through the community courts system.

In the Argus, however, member of the city's mayoral committee (Mayco) for social development, Suzette Little, said that it was "proposed for community villages to complement existing street people programmes and services". In fact, the way the city is spinning the idea is, according to safety and security mayco member JP Smith, "part of a general move towards a more caring and supportive approach in dealing with street people" and as an "alternative to a 'law enforcement' approach". In other words, Little and Smith are claiming that this new programme is about love, care and rehabilitation, rather than discipline and punishment.

But that is not how homeless rights advocates and others see the programme, which was presented as a "done deal" to city improvement district (CID) representatives in a private meeting on the March 15 this year.

According to a source (who asked to remain anonymous because his/her organisation's funding comes through the city), Little presented the programme to the CIDs in a very different light. In the said meeting, she dispelled any semblance of compassion by asserting that "food or jobs cleaning streets or recycling attracts them [street people] to the city, so we must start cutting them off".

Showing a lack of understanding and empathy for people who live on the streets, Little apparently exclaimed: "Dis lekker op die straat, dis a free party. [It's nice on the streets, its a free party]." (It is not as if Little has never gotten paid for having a party of her own: she was infamously caught playing Solitaire during a 2013 budget vote.)

In other words, Little wants to use a reported R40-million budget allocation for helping street people to put an end to all support initiatives in the city centre. This includes soup kitchens, recycling initiatives and even the religious Straatwerk jobs programme. As a result, this would make it hard for them to live on the streets and a new "Street People's Reintegration Unit" would encourage them to "go home" (nevermind the inconvenient truth that most often their home is the street itself).

'Blocking the pavement'
But if people living on the street refuse to go – because the freedom of movement and right to refuse work is their dignified right as per the anti-slavery provision in the Constitution – the unit, with the help of law enforcement will build a dossier against them of minor by-law infractions, such as "blocking the pavement", and eventually use the community courts to force them into these rehabilitation villages.

The source claims that twice during the meeting, Little let slip the word "camp" and had to correct herself. According to the source, "winking at her executive director for social development Ivan Bromfield", Little reportedly said that "he'd be angry if she uses the wrong words".

Why is the word "camp" a big no-no? Simply because it immediately brings to mind war-time forced labour camps, Chinese re-education camps and even the horrifying concentration camp. (If one remembers, the English pioneered the concentration camp against Afrikaners and black South Africans during the Anglo-Boer War).

This account of the private meeting with CID representatives is so important precisely because Little and Smith assumed they were preaching to the converted. In a private meeting to the representatives, they felt that they could be candid about their true intentions while assuming they generally already agreed with and actively participated in the criminalisation of street people.

This is not the first time the municipality has been caught trying to "cleanse" the city centre of street people. Smith, in fact, was instrumental in the winter readiness plan: the arrest and forced removal of hundreds of street people from around Cape Town Stadium in anticipation for the 2010 World Cup.

What is becoming more clear about this initiative is that rather than being caring and supportive, the city's plan is to use by-laws to strip away the little dignity this vulnerable section of the population has left. 

It does not matter how rehabilitative these so-called villages will be – if the individual is not going there of his/her own free will, then it cannot be effective. By forcing street people into these villages, they are effectively incarcerating them for not having a roof over their head.

These villages are nothing more than glorified prisons a la the controversial Chinese Detox Centres; they are essentially presentable and unoffensive versions of Nazi forced-labour camps.

This time, however, its not Jews or homosexuals or communists that fascism has deemed a scapegoat for society's ills. Instead, it is merely street people whose freedom and dignity in this country don't count because their only home blocks a pavement in front of a nightclub and their "unsavoury" form of livelihood scares away the tourists.

- M&G

ANC, DA differ on Nkandla committee mandate

THE battle lines are already being drawn for the struggle that will rage between opposition parties and the African National Congress (ANC) in the special parliamentary committee that will investigate the R246m upgrade to President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla home.

At issue will be what the committee may look into according to the mandate given to it by National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu.

It also emerged on Thursday that Mr Zuma and the ANC could face a freewheeling debate of the Nkandla issue on the floor of the National Assembly if Parliament is recalled to deal with any report that the ad hoc committee might produce.

The issue that will be primary for the committee will be whether it is confined to dealing only with Mr Zuma’s response to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s damning report or if it can look into Ms Madonsela’s findings themselves.

Ms Madonsela found that Mr Zuma and his family had materially benefited from non-security aspects of the upgrade. She recommended he should pay the money back.

On Thursday, Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko told a news conference that she did not believe that the committee had a limited mandate.

"I am not stressed by the terms of reference and believe that there is ample room for the committee to consider the public protector’s report, Mr Zuma’s response to it and the proclamation issued for the Special Investigating Unit to probe the Nkandla issue."

ANC chief whip in the National Assembly Stone Sizani was of a different view.

"The decision to establish the committee was taken in line with the applicable rule enabling the speaker to establish a committee of this nature during a parliamentary recess and following consultation with the chief whip of the majority party and other parties. The ad hoc committee will restrict itself to its mandate outlined in the points of reference and report back to the National Assembly with recommendations where applicable," he said.

Ms Mazibuko said if the ANC in the committee attempted to use its majority to limit the mandate of the committee then "that will be between them and their consciences and their voters".

Mr Sizani criticised the DA’s position saying, "contrary to the opportunistic, misguided and deliberately misleading electioneering rhetoric from the DA, the ad hoc committee has absolutely nothing to do with either the so-called impeachment or the DA’s request for the establishment of a ‘committee to impeach’ the president.

"It is natural that Parliament, as the supreme representative of the people in terms of our constitutional democracy, would develop a special process to consider a matter of national importance as this one."

The notion that the committee had some relation to "impeachment" was nothing but wishful thinking and self-deception which was not borne out by any fact.

What might be causing some concern in the ANC was the timing of the matter.

The committee has been given until April 30 to complete its work meaning that the National Assembly will have a scant six days to consider its report on the Nkandla project.

The national elections will be held on May 7.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Corruption in South Africa: Nkandla in the wind

Why the string of corruption scandals at the top is so disquieting.

“I AM often asked by people from India and Russia, ‘Why do you worry?’”, says David Lewis, head of Corruption Watch, a privately funded watchdog based in Johannesburg. Why indeed? South Africa sits in the middle of international rankings of corruption. It is not Sweden but nor is it Zimbabwe. It has a free and impertinent press. Its constitution gave birth to bodies that check and balance the powers of government. And its judges back their freedoms to poke the executive in the eye.

Indeed, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been checked-and-balanced recently rather more than usual. The public protector, a body created by the constitution, published a report last month that chastised the president, Jacob Zuma, as partly responsible for the 246m rand ($24m) lavished on his private home in Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal. When the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, sent a text message to 1.5m voters saying the president stole your money, a court upheld its right to do so; the ANC is appealing against the judgment. Another court said Zwelinzima Vavi, a vocal critic of ANC corruption, should be reinstated as boss of the biggest union federation.

South Africa has plenty of bodies to be proud of beside its courts. Its treasury is a bastion of rectitude. The revenue service is the envy of richer countries for its ability to harvest tax. The central bank recently raised its main interest rate, despite a weak economy (and a general election next month), to show it is serious about fulfilling its main remit of controlling inflation. The country’s big banks are well regulated and conservative. Its biggest firms are respected multinationals. As long as such institutions stay strong, reckons Mr Lewis, South Africa will not be prey to the sort of endemic corruption seen in Russia, China or India.

Yet there is plenty still to fret about. Start with the Nkandla scandal. Mr Zuma did not quite thumb his nose at the public protector but he came mightily close. Her report recommended that Mr Zuma apologise, pay for some of the refurbishments to his home and report to parliament within two weeks. When the deadline day arrived he airily sent a three-page letter to Parliament’s Speaker, declaring that the report’s findings were at odds with a cabinet investigation, which cleared him of wrongdoing. And he said he would await a third report before giving a further response.

The stalling is not surprising with elections due on May 7th. But the scandal is corrosive not just because of the sums involved but because of the damage it does to South Africa’s institutions. It sullies the presidency as well as the president. And it does broader harm. People feel freer to be corrupt if they sense that people at the top are getting away with it, says Mr Lewis. His biggest worry is the weakness of the police and prosecutorial services. If corruption goes unpunished, it will spread. Most South Africans reckon that corruption at all levels is growing apace, especially in contracts for public works, where lines to the ANC seem increasingly necessary.

And it is hard to avoid an impression that the politically connected are somehow immune to prosecution. The main prosecuting authority is appealing against a court judgment that compels it to indict a former head of the police’s criminal intelligence for fraud, corruption and murder. Meanwhile an investigation led by a senior judge into misdeeds surrounding a big arms deal in 1999 seems to be going nowhere. Mr Zuma’s financial adviser was convicted in 2005 for soliciting a bribe on his behalf from a French arms company. Related charges against Mr Zuma were dropped on the eve of his election as president in 2009. The reasons for that are still far from clear.

Committee to consider Zuma’s response to Nkandla

NATIONAL Assembly speaker Max Sisulu has decided to call an ad hoc committee to consider President Jacob Zuma’s response to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings about the R215m of taxpayer money that funded upgrades to his Nkandla private residence.

On Wednesday, Parliament issued its first official statement, saying that the committee would be formed.

While the committee is not expected to decide to impeach Mr Zuma because the majority of its members would be selected from his African National Congress (ANC), it will give credibility to Parliament’s democratic processes.

Last month, Ms Madonsela found that Mr Zuma had benefited improperly from the R215m spent so far on the upgrade at Nkandla. The expenditure is expected to reach R246m.

She also found that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa had not applied his mind when he declared Nkandla a national key point, and this constituted maladministration.

The statement by Parliament said the ad hoc committee would begin work as soon as possible and report back to the legislature by April 30.

The committee would consist of 12 members, seven from the ANC and two from the Democratic Alliance (DA). The Congress of the People and Inkatha Freedom Party would each contribute one MP.

One member would be selected from the smaller political parties.

In terms of the rules of Parliament, the ad hoc committee can decide on its own procedure, frequency and the timings of sittings.

The parliamentary statement also said Mr Sisulu had decided on the formation of the ad hoc committee after consultation with the chief whips of all the parties.

Mr Zuma tabled his response to Ms Madonsela’s report on April 2. The response included a proclamation and a copy of the report.

The essence of Mr Zuma’s response was that he would wait for the Special Investigating Unit to complete its work before a final decision. He also said he was concerned over big differences between Ms Madonsela’s report and one by the security cluster of ministers.

On Tuesday, the cluster issued a statement saying it had requested Ms Madonsela’s office to provide more information and clarifications.

DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko submitted a request to Mr Sisulu for the ad hoc committee to be formed on March 20, a day after Ms Madonsela released her Nkandla report. Mr Sisulu responded on March 25, saying he was considering the request.

She has taken the firm view that the ad hoc committee is the first step towards impeaching Mr Zuma.

She calls Mr Sisulu’s decision a "bold" move that is a victory for Parliament and the Constitution.

Political analyst Steven Friedman says he is not surprised by Mr Sisulu’s decision: "It (the committee) had to be done. The problem was that it is a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation in that if the committee was formed after the May 7 elections there would have been accusations of kicking the issue into touch. If the committee works before the elections then the accusation will be that it is to influence elections."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nkandla stories are ‘white people’s lies’

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has described articles about President Jacob Zuma and his Nkandla homestead as “white people's lies”, the SABC reported on Wednesday.

He said the reports were “lies perpetuated by white people”, according to the broadcaster.

Nzimande, speaking at the University of Zululand, praised Zuma and said it was appropriate to honour him for his contribution to peace in KwaZulu-Natal and education in the country.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela last month found that Zuma and his family had improperly benefited from R246 million security upgrades at his private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal. - Sapa

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Parliament to to investigate Nkandla before elections

National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu has decided to investigate the Nkandla report before the May 7 elections, Beeld newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Sisulu decided to set up a multiparty parliamentary committee to consider public protector Thuli Madonsela's report "Secure in Comfort" about security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, paid for with state funds.

Beeld quoted Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip Watty Watson and Freedom Front Plus chief whip Corne Mulder, who both confirmed that Sisulu would appoint an ad hoc committee.

"The speaker phoned me and told me he planned to set up an ad hoc committee and that he wanted to consult," said Mulder. "The speaker said the ad hoc committee would have to work morning, noon and night up to the elections on May 7 to get the work done in time ... He [Sisulu] said he wanted to complete it before May 6. That means the committee should present a report before then and then the National Assembly should be called upon to consider the report."

According to parliamentary rules, the speaker needed to consult with political parties before setting up such a committee.

Seven requests
In her report, Madonsela found that Zuma and his family improperly benefited from the R246-million security upgrades, which included a swimming pool, a cattle kraal and an amphitheatre. Madonsela also found that Zuma breached the Executive Members' Ethics Act. She recommended that a percentage of the money be repaid.

" … The amount in question should be based on the cost of the installation of some or all the items that can't conscionably be accepted as security measures. These included the visitor's centre, cattle kraal and chicken run, swimming pool and amphitheatre … The president and his legal advisors did not dispute this during the investigation."

Madonsela received seven requests to investigate Nkandla in 2011 and 2012. She was later asked to investigate whether Zuma lied to Parliament in 2012 when he said that his family had paid for the construction of Nkandla.

Zuma, in his response to the report, said last week he would await a Special Investigating Unit report on the matter before giving full and proper consideration to the matter.

The presidency said the report on upgrades would be used as an added tool to address claims of maladministration.

"In this context, the public protector's report will be an additional tool, which will fall under the consideration of President Zuma in addressing allegations of maladministration."

The presidency said Zuma "has consistently been concerned about the allegations of impropriety around procurement in the Nkandla project".

Sisulu's office told Beeld that a statement would be released once a decision on the committee had been taken. – M&G