27 January 2013

South Africa: Nkandlagate Whitewash to Protect President Zuma From Scrutiny

press release

The press briefing today by the Minister of Public Works, Thulas Nxesi, announcing his department's findings into its 'Nkandlagate' investigation was a poor attempt to shield President Zuma from being held accountable for this exorbitant waste of public money on his private residence. The 'task team' seems more determined to nail low ranking officials for this scandal than to answer legitimate concerns about how President Zuma could have allowed this to happen without taking action.

The fact that this report will not be made public brings into question its independence and casts a further shadow on the entire scandal. I will therefore be calling on Minister Nxesi to table this report in Parliament for it to be fully scrutinized and debated. If he is not prepared to do so, Speaker Max Sisulu must intervene to ensure that this happens without delay.

The press briefing left more questions unanswered than it shed light on the scandal:

How can the President of the Republic of South Africa not have known about the costs of the upgrade to his own private residence? In fact, it is already in media reports that such a briefing was given to him in 2010. And if he still claims to not know, how can he possibly argue that he has served the best interests of the public, as he is required by oath to do?

If the expenditure was justified in terms of the Ministerial Handbook, as Minister Nxesi declared, then how is the R206 million lawful given the R100, 000 limit on upgrades to residences belonging to members of the executive?

If the expenditure was justified by the National Key Point Act, then why was President Zuma not provided notice of this and asked to pay for the upgrade or a section thereof, as stipulated in Section 3A? Furthermore, why then did the Minister of Public Works himself admit in a reply to my parliamentary question that no money was used from the special account provided for in the National Key Point Act?

How is it justified to spend money on clearly non-security requirements on a private home, including air-conditioning, an AstroTurf, a visitor's centre, a private clinic, a helipad, state of the art elevators, and accommodation for staff?

What will happen when President Zuma ceases to be President of the Republic of South Africa? Will he get to keep the palace?

There was absolutely no willingness on the part of government to admit to South Africans today that spending this amount on one man's home is ethically and lawfully wrong. Minister Nxesi must not think that the findings of this 'secret' report will stop questions from being asked.

Indeed, the Public Protector, the Auditor General and SCOPA's reports are still forthcoming and will go a long way to independently shed light on the many unanswered questions.

I can today assure both President Zuma and the Minister of Nxesi, that I remain as committed as ever to ensuring that every stone is unturned in this shameful saga.

Lindiwe Mazibuko, Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Alliance

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