President Jacob Zuma has emerged from the scandal of former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report with the backing of the ANC’s national working committee.
The committee instead questioned Madonsela’s findings.
Zuma has survived a long list of scandals during his seven years as president, including Nkandla.
He was eventually ordered to repay R7.8-million of the R240-million spent on security and cosmetic upgrades there.
Now former president Thabo Mbeki has criticised parliament – and by extension the ANC – for failing to hold Zuma to account over Nkandla.
This week, the working committee considered Madonsela’s report and questioned her motives after she recommended that a judicial commission investigate allegations that the influential Gupta family was engaged in state capture.
Madonsela found that Zuma may have violated the executive ethics code for turning a blind eye to claims that the Gupta family offered Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas the job of finance minister plus R600-million.
The report has led to opposition parties and ANC veterans calling for Zuma to resign.
But ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, tasked with communicating the outcome of the meeting yesterday, said Madonsela’s report was inconclusive and contained no binding findings conferring guilt on any party.
He also questioned Madonsela’s recommendation of a judicial commission of inquiry, a demand first made by the EFF during coalition negotiations.
“We are looking closely at everything and say what is at play here,” Mantashe said. The national working committee, made up mostly of pro-Zuma leaders, has now decided that the report cannot be used as a basis to remove Zuma.
Committee members include Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, State Security Minister David Mahlobo, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, ANC parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and Water Affairs and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.
On the committee’s decision, Mantashe said: “Calls also for the president to step down using the report as a basis are premature and unfounded.”
The ANC has also contested Madonsela’s recommendation that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng choose the judge to lead the inquiry, saying those powers rest with the president.
Meanwhile, delivering the keynote address at the Sunday Times Top 100 banquet last night, Mbeki said it would have served South Africa well if all parties in parliament discussed the observations of the Constitutional Court to ensure that all relevant institutions operate as they should, as required by our constitution.
In the widely hailed judgment on Nkandla, Mogoeng ruled that Zuma had failed to uphold the constitution when he second-guessed Madonsela’s report on the matter.
“If parliament had done what I suggest, honestly and seriously, this would have made the strategic intervention we need to pull the country out of the unhappy political situation in which it is and put us on course to achieve the quality governance system we visualised when we adopted our constitution 20 years ago,” Mbeki told the banquet.
Mbeki’s criticism of parliament comes a week after he wrote a letter to Zuma urging him to listen to the 101 ANC veterans who have called on him to resign.
Mbeki’s speech can be interpreted as a veiled attack on the ANC, which has used its majority in parliament to block moves to pass a vote of no confidence in Zuma.
Mbeki’s speech came as the opposition is preparing to push through another vote of no confidence against the president.
But it is expected to be defeated by the ANC majority tomorrow.
He said South Africa was immersed in a general crisis and that both political and economic factors were reasons for this.
“Fortunately, we have not as yet arrived at the tipping point when the country becomes ungovernable, with disastrous consequences for black and white, rich and poor, and young and old alike,” Mbeki said.
“This is an eventuality we must avoid at all costs.”
He urged business leaders to “act now and do the right thing because time is not on our side”.
On state capture, he said: “As all of us have seen, the current raging debate about the so-called state capture has brought sharply to the fore questions about the attitude of capital as a whole to the resolution of our country’s national challenges, and whether the drive to make money at all costs means that capital is ready even to subvert the constitutional order.”
Parliament will debate the motion of no confidence in Zuma, called for by the DA, tomorrow, with Mantashe and analysts saying it is doomed to fail.
Political analyst Susan Booysen said the DA’s motion was wishful thinking as ANC MPs would never “hand over” the party to the opposition.
She said Zuma was not the only source of problems facing the country.
However, the motion was not a wasteful effort, but a calculated and strategic one.