How DA and EFF outwitted ANC

07 September 2014 - 02:29
By Jan-Jan Joubert
INITIATOR: Mmusi Maimane
INITIATOR: Mmusi Maimane

Today the Sunday Times can reveal that a long-term opposition co-operation project, led by DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane, was rewarded last week when the ANC was unexpectedly outsmarted on the Nkandla matter.

The parliamentary ad hoc committee established to deal with President Jacob Zuma's response to public protector Thuli Madonsela's report on Nkandla met on August 29, merely to elect a chairman.

Normally this is a formality, but the opposition caught the ANC flat-footed by opposing the election of ANC MP Cedric Frolick as chairman until the committee's scope had been widened beyond Zuma's answer to Madonsela's report on Nkandla, to also include Madonsela's report and any other documentation the committee members deemed relevant to their task.

The Sunday Times understands that the opposition plan on Nkandla, which includes the DA, Economic Freedom Fighters and Freedom Front Plus, also has the mandate of all of the smaller opposition parties.

The fledgling opposition dynamic saw the ANC stonewall all discussion on Nkandla in this week's chief whips forum. It even made EFF leader Julius Malema predict that the opposition could jointly bring parliament to a standstill.

Maimane said the idea was "to work together on crucial issues where we can co-operate and which we can drive collectively".

"It forms part of a long-term process. It is not aimed at ideological blending or any future coalitions, just at overcoming divisions when important constitutional and other issues demand it," he said.

The first battle to ensure maximum accountability on Nkandla took place at a low-profile meeting early last week to elect the two representatives of the smaller opposition parties on the committee.

The smaller parties elected Narend Singh (Inkatha Freedom Party ) and Corné Mulder (FF Plus) to represent them . They joined Maimane, Malema and DA MP James Selfe as the five opposition members on the committee.

It is understood Maimane contacted Malema to discuss ways to ensure that this Nkandla committee does not go the way of its predecessor in the previous parliament, which was criticised for passing the buck on Zuma's role in the upgrades of his private home.

Malema agreed to a strategy meeting, which took place in Maimane's office at 7.30am last Friday and which was also attended by Mulder and Selfe. Singh did not attend.

At that meeting it was agreed that the opposition would not support the election of the ANC nominee as chairman until the scope had been widened.

An hour later at the ad hoc committee, the ANC was surprised when Maimane put their demands, backed by Malema and Selfe, who said the only issue it needed to discuss was how Zuma would obey Madonsela's finding that he must pay a part of the R246-million spent on the Nkandla upgrades.

ANC MPs countered that ANC chief whip Stone Sizani had given the undertaking that Madonsela's report could form part of the committee's scope.

But the united opposition argued that Sizani's undertaking was not binding on the committee because it did not form part of its written mandate from the National Assembly, and it logically followed that if the ANC did feel bound by Sizani's undertaking, surely it could not object to including it in the written, official mandate.

Thus outwitted, the ANC agreed to refer the mandate back to the National Assembly and the meeting adjourned - the united opposition having won a surprising victory.

Immediately afterwards the ANC contingent caucused furiously with ANC officials and told the media the ANC was unlikely to change the committee's mandate, which refers only to Zuma's reply to Madonsela.

Asked why the ANC had not used its majority to force his election as chairman, Frolick said such a step would not have inspired public confidence and the ANC would only ever do so as an extreme measure.

Malema said the opposition had decided to work together on the Nkandla matter in the interests of the country and the constitution and to see to it that the ANC did not undermine the office of the public protector.