Opposition parties argued on Thursday (24/04/2014) that President Jacob Zuma and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela should appear before the ad hoc committee set up to consider his response to her findings on the Nkandla controversy.
The call was made as the special 12-member committee created by Parliament to consider the president’s reply sat for the first time on Thursday, two weeks after its formation was announced.
“I don’t see why anybody would not want to come and respond to the allegations against them,” Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said.
“We hope people will be willing to accept an invitation, but this committee has the legal power to subpoena anybody,” she said.
The committee is chaired by National Assembly house chairman Cedric Frolick and is due to finish its work by April 30.
It will only reconvene on Monday, making an exhaustive inquiry into Madonsela’s findings regarding the R246 million spent on improvements at the president’s private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal unlikely.
Madonsela found that Zuma had unduly benefited from the project funded by the public purse and should repay money used to build, among other things, a kraal, chicken run, swimming pool and amphitheatre.
Nkandla has become a key election issue and Zuma’s single page response to Madonsela indicates that the ANC is trying to limit the focus on her report in the run-up to the May 7 poll.
Frolick suggested the ad hoc committee might well make recommendations to the new legislature, constituted after the elections, to deal with the matter more thoroughly.
“Everything does not cease to be on May 7. We cannot tell the fifth Parliament what to do, but we can make recommendations,” he told Sapa.
The ANC majority on the committee rejected pleas from the opposition that it continue its deliberations on Friday, saying they needed the weekend to study Zuma’s response to Madonsela, as well as her full 443-page report.
The president handed a copy of the report, titled “Secure in Comfort”, to Parliament along with his response, in which he defers the matter until the Special Investigation Unit completes its own probe into Nkandla.
By law, Zuma was obliged to attach Madonsela’s report to his response and this has paved the way for opposition parties to push for it to be debated in the committee, the last likely opportunity for parliamentary debate on the Nkandla spending before the country goes to the polls.
ANC MPs had argued that the mandate of the committee be restricted to Zuma’s letter.
Frolick, however, said: “It would be silly to say we must restrict ourselves to a one-page letter.”
At an election rally in Mpumalanga on Wednesday, Zuma rejected Madonsela’s finding that he had wrongfully benefited from the Nkandla upgrade, and reminded supporters that he was cleared by an earlier inter-ministerial report.
“Nkandla has its own processes,” he said.
“She said there was ‘undue benefit’… I’m still looking for it.” – Sapa