‘Zuma, you’re on your own’

THE ANC’s national executive committee has washed its hands of President Jacob Zuma in the wake of the R246-million Nkandla upgrades scandal. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told a media briefing yesterday that there had been no need to dwell on the public protector’s Nkandla report at the party’s national executive committee meeting in Cape Town at the weekend – because it was not the ANC that was being investigated.

On Sunday, an electioneering Zuma told a small group of supporters in Gugulethu, Cape Town, that he had “never misused” public funds on his private homestead.

“They say I am corrupt and I built my house with taxpayers’ money ... I never did that‚” Zuma said.

Yesterday, Mantashe said Zuma would have to account to parliament.

“Our view is let us not interfere with that space. What we did not do is say to the president ‘Please report to us’ because if we do that we will be undermining [parliament].

“The president is expected to table the [public protector’s Nkandla] report in parliament on Wednesday [tomorrow] and respond to issues. If we said ‘Give that evidence’, we would be interfering.”

Mantashe said the ANC could only suggest to Zuma and the affected parties that they reconcile the reports of the public protector and of the interministerial team investigating the Nkandla upgrades. The ANC would not recommend any course of action. Rather, it would “monitor the implementation of the report”.

“Anyone who benefited there fraudulently or wrongfully must be pursued‚” Mantashe said.

“That money must be recovered – and we have selected those words carefully because we know that all of you will look at one individual‚ but we know there is a very long tale of people who contributed to the inflation of the prices.”

But he dismissed assertions that the ANC would drop Zuma as its presidential candidate in the May elections.

“When we elect a president, that president is the face of the ANC in the elections, and that issue is not up for discussion, nor is it an issue for a referendum in the ANC.”

But political analyst Somadoda Fikeni suggested that Zuma’s “immediate and long-term position” was not as strong as it appeared. He said though Madonsela’s report did not implicate the ANC, the party would observe unfolding events and might yet take drastic decisions, depending on its performance in the polls.

“The party is unlikely to take strong positions that could backfire later. Privately, they are worried, more so when you have veterans of the ANC speaking out strongly on the Nkandla report.”

The ANC national executive committee is expected to close ranks around Zuma, but the party has been non-committal. It seems to have adopted a wait-and-see approach, which might indicate that it is leaving itself room for decisive action later. – Kingdom Mabuza and Olebogeng Molatlhwa. Additional reporting by Natasha Marrian.