Members of the ANC used their majority to thwart calls from the opposition parties to have the Public Protector appear before the Ad Hoc Committee dealing with the Police Minister’s report on Nkandla. The Opposition had argued it was necessary to invite the Public Protector in order to present her side of the story on allegations that she had misled and lied to the country about her findings on Nkandla.
The ANC responded that calling the Public Protector to appear before the Committee would be like re-opening the investigation, and the perception would be that the work and the office of the Public Protector was being undermined. It asserted that the previous Ad Hoc Committee had seen no need to call the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Public Protector, and the Public Protector had chosen to communicate her report to the media and public instead of submitting it to Parliament.
The Opposition argued that the same courtesy that had been given to the Ministers of Police and Public Works should be extended to the Public Protector. It also suggested that Mr Makhanya, the architect, as well as the drafters of the SIU Report, the Nkandla project manager, the Surveyor General and the former Minister of Public Works, should be called to answer to the Committee.
Members of the ANC accused the Opposition of dishonesty, because the issues it was raising had been raised before and had been deliberated on. It had approached the reports of the two Ministers with a closed mind and was not sticking to the issues at hand. It was quite clear it wanted to extend the lifespan of the Committee.
The ANC Members accused the Opposition of engaging in political posturing, and said they had failed to present superior arguments. There was therefore no need to call the Public Protector -- her claim that the President and his family had benefited unduly was non-existent. No value would be added to the Committee by calling the SIU and Public Protector. The Committee did not have the competency to engage in legal arguments.
The Opposition branded Members of the ANC as “cowards” for flatly refusing to engage with the Public Protector, and asked what it was that they feared from her. Some Members of the Opposition felt the whole process was “bewitched,” describing it as a political game to make sure President Zuma escaped this episode with the help of party members.
The Opposition indicated that the two reports which mattered the most were those of the Public Protector and the SIU, which the ruling party members did not want to interrogate. The Opposition also pointed out that inviting the Public Protector would help the ANC to understand why she had spoken about “opulence” and “amphitheatre” in her report, and it would give them an opportunity to tell her directly that she had lied to the country. However, it appeared the Members of the ANC did not want that opportunity.
Responding to remarks from the Opposition that the ANC was using its majority to subvert the findings of the Public Protector and the Constitution, Members of the ANC said the ruling party was not afraid of anything. The people had bestowed majority status on the ANC. However, an Opposition Member responded that as long as the ANC was ruling and protecting the corrupt, its rule was going to come to an end.
Adoption of Minutes
The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 21 July 2015 page by page.
Dr C Mulder (FF+) suggested that “the” be removed from a certain section on Page 2. On Page 3, paragraph 3 “Committee” should be changed to “Individual Members”.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) moved the adoption of the minutes.
Mr D Gamede (ANC) supported her proposal.
The minutes were adopted with changes.
The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 23 July 2015 page by page.
Dr Mulder suggested that “findings” on Page 2 be changed to “observations,” “Committee” on Page 3 be changed to “Individual Members,” and “findings” on Page 3 be changed to “observations”.
Ms D Dlakude (ANC) indicated there had been consensus on certain things, hence the use of the word “Committee”.
Mr V Smith (ANC) told members not to be “nit picking,” because they needed to save time.
The Chairperson, on the section dealing with recommendations of the minutes, indicated the general consensus was that rules had been flouted, costs inflated, and that money needed to be recovered.
Dr Mulder agreed with the Chairperson.
Ms L Maseko (ANC) said no decision had been taken on the issue of relevant stakeholders being invited to the Committee.
Dr Mulder said that that had been the suggestion of certain Members of the Committee, not a Committee decision.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) suggested that the line, “Mr Makhanya was subject to High Court litigation” should be changed.
Mr F Beukman (ANC) moved the adoption of minutes.
Mr A Plouamma (AGANG) seconded his proposal.
The minutes were adopted, with changes.
Mr Swart pointed out that a concern had been raised about calling the Public Protector to appear before the Committee because of the importance of her report and allegations levelled against her that she had misled South Africa in with her observations on the Nkandla visit. He proposed that the Public Protector be called in order to gain an understanding of the legal status of her report.
Dr Mulder said that the Constitution made it clear that the National Assembly had the right to summon anyone to account to Parliament. It was strange that the ruling party had listened to, and interrogated, the reports of the two Ministers for countless hours but was refusing to extend that courtesy to the Public Protector. Individual Members of the Committee, not the whole Committee, were putting the credibility of the Public Protector on the line, saying that she had misled the country. It was strange that she had been found guilty without being given a platform to tell her side of the story.
The ruling party was using its majority to subvert the findings of the Public Protector. It was logical to call the Public Protector. It was also logical to call Mr Makhanya, because he was now the scapegoat. The ANC did not want the project manager and many others to appear before the Committee. He maintained that the ANC could use its majority to subvert the Constitution and the Public Protector’s findings, but people’s perceptions would never change.
Adv G Breytenbach (DA) said she was disappointed that the Committee would never hear the truth about the matter. If the Committee were serious, other people who were objective about the issue should be called. It would be good to call the Public Protector and tell her that she had lied and misled the country. Not wanting to call her was proof that they, the members of the ruling party, were cowards. They had maligned the office of the Public Protector and subverted certain sections of the constitution. The true reports that mattered most were those of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and Public Protector, which members of the ruling party did not want to interrogate.
The Chairperson asked Adv Breytenbach not to call others “cowards”.
Adv Breytenbach said she was very reluctant to withdraw her statement.
Mr Smith said the Opposition must not accuse the ruling party, but only certain individuals. The Committee had to debate the merits and demerits of the matter. The mandate of the Committee was about implementation. The ANC had only attacked the rationale behind the content of the report of the Public Protector. The report of the Public Protector did not reflect what had been seen in Nkandla. There had been no amphitheatre there.
All the reports had been processed. The report of the Auditor-General (AG) had been attacked, but no-one had called for the AG to come to defend his report. He asked why the Public Protector was singled out. There was a perception that if the Public Protector was not called, the Committee was not doing its work. Then, if the Public Protector was called, the perception would be that she was being defended. The Committee did not have competency for legal arguments. Therefore, there was no need to call the Public Protector. The Public Protector had nothing to say to the Committee because she was not a security specialist. There was no value to be added by calling the SIU and Public Protector to appear before the Committee.
Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) expressed disappointment that the ruling party had turned down the proposal of the Committee. Legally, there was nothing that prevented the Public Protector from appearing before the Committee. It should be remembered the Public Protector had been appointed by the Parliament, so she had to come to Parliament to explain the content of her report.
Mr L Mbinda (PAC) also said he was disappointed that the Committee had not been given the opportunity to scrutinise the report of the Public Protector. When the reports of the two Ministers had been interrogated, no one had said the investigation was being re-opened. However, when the report of the Public Protector had to be interrogated, the members of the ruling party were saying the investigation was being re-opened.
He told the ruling party that some opposition parties had agreed to participate in this Committee, despite objections from other opposition parties not to do so. The idea was that if the Opposition did not participate, it would be rubberstamping the ideas or actions of the ANC. He said the ANC should rethink its position on the matter and understand that people held the office of the Public Protector in high regard. Opposition members wanted to scrutinise and interrogate the report of the Public Protector, not the Public Protector herself.
Mr F Beukman (ANC) asserted that the ruling party was not casting aspersions on the office of the Public Protector. The previous Committee had deliberated on the matter and considered the reports of the SIU and many others. The previous Committee had not called anyone, but the current one had called on the Ministers of Police and Public Works to account before the Committee. The reports were comprehensive. All the parties had supported the calling of these Ministers. Their reports had been thoroughly interrogated and considered. The Committee had considered four reports and had visited Nkandla, and now it was time to drive the matter to its conclusion.
Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) said it was sad that the Opposition had not got what it had expected from the ruling party. Now everyone was retreating to his or her laager. The reports of Judge Scheepers and of the two Ministers were going to be substituted for the report of the Public Protector. During the first and second episode of Nkandla, the Public Protector had not been allowed to come to Parliament, yet the two Ministers – who were executive members – had appeared before the Parliament carte blanche. This undermined the Public Protector. Mr Beukman had said the report of the Public Protector had been interrogated and considered many times, but the Public Protector had not appeared before the Committee like the executive. The Minister of Police had been given the opportunity to state why he disagreed with the Public Protector. The Minister of Public Works had been given a chance to explain about the upgrades. He asked why it was difficult to invite the Public Protector to explain herself to the Committee.
Mr N Singh (IFP) said he disagreed with Mr Smith on the issue of the AG’s report. He had suggested many times that the AG should be called on to explain his report in a closed meeting, but the ruling party had been using its majority to bar the AG from a closed meeting. He saw no reason why the Public Protector could not called to a closed meeting. Calling the Public Protector would be a golden opportunity to put the Nkandla case to rest. As opposition members, they wanted to know who was responsible for the shoddy work at Nkandla, why it had happened, and to ask the Public Protector about the origins of the amphitheatre that were contained in her report. He asked why members of the ruling party were afraid to engage with the Public Protector if they had nothing to hide.
Mr M Plouamma (AGANG) said he would have referred to this process as “bewitched,” if he did not have the respect of the Members. It looked like the President was going to escape this episode with the help of his party members. The Committee was going to have its report and state that Zuma did not have to pay the money, and that the Public Protector had misled the people.
It was important to pursue the truth. The office of the Public Protector was not respected. Nkandla was being used to loot, and it was a “lotto” to some. This was a political game to protect the President. The principle of civilisation had been broken. The truth was being seen, but people were avoiding seeing it. Even if the Committee compiled its report, he would never agree with its contents. He warned the ANC that as long as it continued to rule and protect the corrupt, its rule was going to come to an end one day. There was no reason not to call the Public Protector to assist the process.
Dr M Motshekga (ANC) insisted that the Opposition failed to understand the mandate, the process and the constitution, and how these applied to issues before the Committee.
In the first instance, the ANC had not imposed anything, and the previous Committee had not seen a need to call on any individuals. It appears the Opposition did not understand the concept of the separation of powers. The remedial actions contained in the report of the Public Protector were not binding, and Judge Scheepers had vindicated the ruling party. The ANC could not oppose, or not listen to, the judgment of the court.
The Committee was operating on a mandate that emanated from resolutions. Here there was a difference of opinions. The Public Protector had come with a report which had been reviewed. Then Members had seen what they wanted to see in Nkandla. Differences between what they had seen during the visit and the report of the Public Protector had been found. Now the opinion of the ANC on the matter was that it differed with the Public Protector, because the content of her report was misleading the public.
The ANC was not using its majority to do things, but it differed from the Opposition if it did not present superior arguments. If it had them, the ANC would listen to them. There was no need to call the Public Protector, because she had said what she wanted to say in the media. The claim that the President and his family had benefited unduly was non-existent. There was a need to prepare a final report and close the matter.
Ms T Mahambehlala (ANC) stated that the submission of the report of the Public Protector to Parliament had expired. The Public Protector had chosen to send her the report to the President and not to the Speaker of the Parliament, according to the rules of the Constitution. The Public Protector had chosen to communicate with the public, and she had therefore violated the rules of the Constitution. Members should refrain from quoting the Constitution selectively. The reports of the two Ministers had not been informed by the report of the Public Protector, but by the resolutions of the previous ad hoc Committee. Members should refrain from political posturing because the Nkandla issue would never be closed.
Mr N Khubisa (NFP) said that the narrative was wider than most people thought. He was of the view that the Public Protector must come to the Parliament in order to establish how she had coined terms like “amphitheatre,” despite the inflated prices. He had various convictions about what Members had seen in Nkandla.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) told Members that nowhere in the Constitution was it stated that the office of the Public Protector was superior to any Chapter 9 institution. She agreed with Ms Mahambehlala that the Public Protector had given her report to the media before submitting it to Parliament. The final report of the Committee had to be submitted before 7 August 2015, and if other people were to be called, that deadline would be missed and it would take a whole year to finalise. The previous ad hoc Committee had never asked the SIU and Public Protector to appear before it. The process should rather be fast-tracked.
Ms E Coleman (ANC) said that some Members of the Opposition had approached the reports of the two Ministers with a closed mind. Members had to stick to the issues at hand. The reports of the two Ministers had led the Committee to visit Nkandla in order to verify the truth. The previous Committee had deliberated on the report of the Public Protector and resolutions had been taken. The matter was already before the courts, and there was no reason why the courts could not extract the information they needed from the people before them. Unfortunately, the President, the SIU and the Public Protector could not come before the Committee. The report should be compiled, and the public allowed to be the judge.
Mr D Gamede (ANC) said the Opposition was dishonest. The issues it was raising had been dealt with before. They had been deliberated and resolutions taken. The ANC was not afraid of anything. It was bound by the decisions of the court. The majority of the ANC had been given to it by the people. The majority belonged to the ANC. The report must be compiled.
Ms M Kubayi (ANC) told Members that the report of the Public Protector had never tabled before the Parliament. The fundamental issues contained in her report were inconsistent with what the Committee had seen in Nkandla. Her report contained words like “opulence” and “amphitheatre”, and if her report were to be reviewed, the view would be that her work and office were being undermined. She added that Members should stop using words like “bewitched” when they disagreed with others.
Mr Swart maintained that the report of the Public Protector had been submitted to Parliament. If the Announcements, Tablings and Committees (ATC) did not reflect that, that meant something had happened to it internally. The report had to be reviewed because it had been submitted to Parliament, and the Committee must be given a chance to engage with the Public Protector. To say she had engaged with the President on the issue of a kraal was hearsay.
The report of Judge Scheepers had stated that if a dispute arose, there had to be a review or engagement with the Public Protector, and all the processes should be followed. This would be in compliance with the court order. He urged Members to consider the issue thoroughly if they said the President must not pay a portion of the amount.
Ms D Dlakude (ANC) said that the Committee had been established to deal with the reports of the two Ministers, and Parliament had a responsibility to come up with its own conclusions. However, this did not mean it had to agree with all of the reports. It was clear for all to see that the prestige project had benefited other people. She did not see what would be achieved by calling witnesses. The idea of always wanting to see the President on the wrong side of the law was clouding the judgment of Members. It was better to stick to the mandate of the Committee.
Mr Swart, though not a voting member, formally proposed that the Public Protector be called.
Dr Mulder seconded him.
A Member of the ruling party objected.
Mr Gamede supported the Member, saying Mr Swart was not a voting member.
Mr Singh took over the proposal of Mr Swart.
Dr Motshekga seconded the idea of a vote. He said the Opposition had failed to persuade the ANC, and now it wanted to accuse the ANC of using its majority.
Seven votes were against Mr Singh, while four were in his favour.
Dr Mulder then proposed that Mr Makhanya, as well as the former Minister of Public Works, the project manager for Nkandla, the drafters of the SIU report and the Surveyor General, be called to Parliament.
Mr Steenhuisen supported him.
Dr Motshekga objected.
Seven votes were against Dr Mulder, while four were in his favour.
The Chairperson concluded there would be no witnesses called, and the draft report would be drafted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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