ANC changes tune on Nkandla, Thuli

09 October 2016 - 02:03 By THABO MOKONE and BABALO NDENZE

The ANC in parliament has made a dramatic U-turn on its decision to approve a report absolving President Jacob Zuma of liability for renovations at his Nkandla home, with the party's chief whip telling MPs the move was a "spectacular own goal".

In his prepared report to the caucus lekgotla, Jackson Mthembu told MPs that they needed to "interrogate" how they "voted [for] and passed" the Nkandla report, which absolved Zuma of liability after more than R246-million of public money was spent on renovating his home.

"The midterm lekgotla needs to interrogate how we as the ANC component in parliament voted and passed a report on the security upgrades in the president's homestead that the Constitutional Court declared invalid and unconstitutional, which brought our credibility into question," the chief whip's report said.

The Nkandla report, which was compiled by an ANC-dominated ad hoc committee, was declared invalid and unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, and Zuma was ordered to pay R7.8-million back to the state.

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Mthembu's remarks are the strongest indication yet that Zuma's grip on the party's parliamentary caucus is loosening as the ANC's succession debate is starting to hot up.

His stance is also a serious departure from the party's previous position in parliament of defending Zuma at all costs.

The party's approach to the Nkandla debacle has been identified as one of the major factors that led to the ANC's worst electoral performance yet, in the August local government elections which saw it lose control of three major metros.

Mthembu's utterances are part of a strategy by an anti-Zuma faction that is going all out to distance itself from the current administration in a bid to regain public trust.

This was evident when the ANC in parliament made changes to its portfolio committee on communications by removing three MPs who were seen as soft on Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the SABC board.

On Mthembu's instructions, the new appointees to the committee came down hard on the pro-Zuma board, rubbished their reappointment of Motsoeneng and called for their resignations.

In another sign that more leaders are turning against Zuma, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe praised outgoing public protector Thuli Madonsela at her farewell gala dinner in Midrand this week.

Mantashe said Madonsela had "saved us from ourselves" and that "you leave the ANC wiser as you go".

This is in stark contrast to the criticism Mantashe had expressed against Madonsela after she released her Nkandla report.

block_quotes_start We must stop doing wrong things in parliament, otherwise we can't as the ANC continue calling ourselves the leader of society block_quotes_end

Mthembu told ANC MPs on Friday that their credibility had been called into question after they bulldozed their Nkandla report through parliament despite resistance from opposition parties. "The question the lekgotla needs to answer is how in spite of and despite the forces arraigned against us, in spite of and despite spectacular own goals we have scored, how do we restore our credibility here in parliament," he told MPs.

Mthembu told the Sunday Times that, for the ANC caucus to regain credibility, it needed to start by admitting its mistakes.

"We must stop doing wrong things in parliament, otherwise we can't as the ANC continue calling ourselves the leader of society," he said.

"We should find a way of stopping such spectacular own goals and give the status of the defenders of the constitution to the opposition."

In the same chief whip report, Mthembu commended ANC MPs for having led a credible public process to find a suitable successor to Madonsela. He also applauded his MPs for tackling troubled state-owned enterprises such as the SABC and SAA.

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The new communications committee members are former Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele, ANC national executive committee member Sisisi Tolashe and Mandisa Matshoba. They pushed for an inquiry into the SABC's board fitness.

They replaced Maesela Kekana, Mogotle Nkadimeng and Nokuzola Ndongeni, who had been part of a committee that shielded Motsoeneng and the SABC board.

Mthembu said the three MPs had been removed because the ANC was unimpressed with their previous performance.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa, who made a rare appearance at the portfolio committee meeting, said he was there to make sure MPs toed the party line as both cabinet and the NEC were critical of Motsoeneng's reappointment.

mokonet@sundaytimes.co.za, ndenzeb@timesmedia.co.za

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