ANC seeks damage control after damning Nkandla report

20 March 2014 - 14:38 By AFP

The African National Congress sought to minimise the damage caused by a damning ombudsman's report which showed that some of the $23 million state-funded upgrades on President Jacob Zuma's private home were unlawful.

The African National Congress, whose popularity is flagging ahead of upcoming polls, said the officials implicated should be called to account and misspent money repaid, but tried to divert attention from its tainted leader.

"All public office bearers, officials and private sector companies involved in any maladministration must be brought to book, and all funds that were acquired inappropriately must be recovered," said ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

"When we say all, we mean all," Mantashe told a news conference in Johannesburg, when asked if this included Zuma.

But he slammed calls for the president's impeachment as a "premeditated position that has nothing to do with the report".

The country's laws are vague about the consequences of the head of state breaking the ethics code, but the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said it would start impeachment proceedings.

"If we go out of the report and follow our emotional feelings and passions we are going to falter," Mantashe cautioned.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday ordered Zuma to repay a "reasonable percentage" for the costs of non-security upgrade on his rural homestead in Nkandla, in the eastern province KwaZulu-Natal.

The upgrades included a swimming pool, private clinic, visitors centre and a helipad.

The report was the first official confirmation of the extent of maladministration after a ministerial probe last year cleared Zuma of wrongdoing in the revamp.

It found that the president violated the executive ethics code by failing to protect state resources.

The party criticised the timing of the report's release ahead of general elections on May 7, though Madonsela blamed government requests for extensions to respond to the report for the delay.

Zuma remains the party's presidential candidate for the upcoming polls, where it is expected to win with a reduced majority.

Senior ANC leaders will inspect the homestead next week.

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