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Nkandla shunts MPs from their most basic duty

The Times Editorial | 2015-07-22 00:02:22.0

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How to arrest the steady decline in public trust in politicians and democratic institutions? The question looms large today as members of parliament's special ad hoc committee on Nkandla visit President Jacob Zuma's palatial private residence.

Data collected by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation show that public trust in national leaders declined from 65% in 2006 to 49% in 2013.

Trust in the Presidency over this period plunged even more alarmingly - from 75% to 55%, while faith in parliament declined from 69% in 2006 to 57% in 2013.

The widespread faith we placed in our politicians and institutions in the early years of our democracy to address the country's problems has been eaten away by the corrosive power of poor leadership and graft.

If public opinion data over the past year were analysed, the figures would be even more depressing. It is over this period that the ugly sore that is the Nkandla scandal has been in the full public glare.

Citizens concerned by the government's failure to address the country's biggest challenges have been rendered powerless as ruling party MPs - and the police minister - employed every trick in the book to prevent President Jacob Zuma from standing to account for the R246-million of public money spent on the Nkandla "security upgrades".

They have also had to endure the galling spectacle of the Economic Freedom Fighters turning parliament into a circus as the debate on the president's culpability raged.

It seems likely that the ANC will quash, once and for all, any hope that Zuma will be made to repay some of the money unconscionably spent on his swimming pool, kraal and chicken run as directed by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Should they do so, the ruling party's MPs will have failed in their most basic duty: holding the executive to account.

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