Tue Oct 25 08:41:08 SAST 2016

Zille's failed Nkandla march

THANDO MGAGA and SIYABULELA DZANIBE | 05 November, 2012 00:04113 Comments
DA leader Helen Zille tries to get closer to President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla compound in KwaZulu-Natal. File photo.

DA leader Helen Zille's attempt to trespass on President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead yesterday ended in retreat amid threats of stone-throwing and other violence.

About 120 angry ANC members - who had been bused in by the party's Musa Dladla regional leadership - warned a defiant Zille to go back to Western Cape and deal with its challenges instead of "snooping" on Zuma.

With ANC supporters travelling from Durban and Vryheid in luxury Range Rovers and Mercedes-Benzes, singing Dubula iBhunu and waving party flags, yesterday's DA "invasion" bore a strong resemblance to its youth subsidy march to Cosatu House in Johannesburg earlier this year.

That campaign, in May, resulted in a bruising street battle when Cosatu members attacked DA supporters.

Yesterday, the presence of about 100 police, some from the tactical response team, and a helicopter hovering over the Zuma compound, prevented what might have turned into another bloody battle.

Zille and her six-member delegation, including DA youth chairman Mbali Ntuli, Limpopo DA leader Jacques Smalle and DA KwaZulu-Natal chairman Haniff Hoosen, were escorted to Zuma's home village by a 30-member police tactical team that met her convoy at Eshowe, 50km from Nkandla.

On the stretch of road to Zuma's house more armed police greeted Zille but prevented her from getting closer to the compound.

The irate DA leader defied police orders not to continue towards the crowd.

"The ANC members are turning a public road into a no-go area," she said. "This is a democratic country. We have freedom of movement. The police are defending the undermining of the constitution and the breaking of the rule of law [by] not defending our right to freedom of movement."

A verbal altercation with the police resulted in tactical response team members forming a human wall to prevent Zille and her delegates from marching up to ANC supporters, who sang about her being an imperialist who did not want areas other than Western Cape to develop.

In the end, Zille and her party managed to see Zuma's compound only from the main road, about a kilometre from the mansion.

Upset at her treatment by the police, Zille went to a police station to complain of a violation of the Legal Gathering Act.

She vowed not to give up her quest to uncover just how much was spent renovating the president's residence and who benefited from the revamp.

The public protector is investigating "Nkandlagate" and DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko has asked the auditor-general to probe the renovations.

But in spite of all the investigations, Zille yesterday threatened the president and his government with legal action.

She gave Zuma three days in which to tell the "truth" about Nkandla, including "how much was spent, on what, by whom, and under what provision of the law".

Zuma will, it appears, pay only 5% of the total R248-million it will cost to revamp his Nkandla homestead, which includes the construction of a helipad and underground bunkers, and the erection of fencing around the entire complex.

"We felt it was important for us to see the compound for ourselves before we embark on court action against the president for this blatant abuse of power," Zille said.

"This is state-sponsored corruption on an unprecedented scale. We cannot let him get away with it."

She said she would instruct the DA's lawyers on Wednesday.

The Nkandla renovations have been mired in controversy and secrecy, with no government department willing to give detailed information on the grounds that Nkandla has been classified as a "national keypoint".

Zille, however, said Zuma had lost the right to call the compound his private residence because it "belongs to each and every South African who has had to sacrifice the basic services they need so that the president can turn his home into a five-star fortressed palace".

"Abusing public money for private benefit is the very definition of corruption. The R250-million spent on Nkandla is the most brazen case of corruption since the arms deal," said Zille.

The chairman of the ANC's Musa Dladla region, Thulani Mashaba, said Zille should stop "obsessing" about Zuma and trying to block rural development, and instead focus on challenges in her province.

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