Why we walked out of the Nkandla committee - DA, EFF & Co.

Opposition parties say the ANC majority is indulging in a shameful cover-up, and they want no part in it

Opposition Parties press statement by Mmusi Maimane MP, Leader of the Opposition, and Julius Malema MP, Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, and Corne Mulder MP, Narend Singh MP, Steve Swart MP, (Alternate) Members of Opposition Parties on the Nkandla Committee, September 26 2014:

Opposition parties walk out of Nkandla Committee, and terminate participation

26 September 2014

The Democratic Alliance, the Economic Freedom Fighters, the Freedom Front Plus, the Inkhata Freedom Party, the African Christian Democratic Party, all opposition members of the Nkandla ad hoc Committee, today walked out of the Nkandla ad hoc Committee and today terminated our participation in the committee process. 

The opposition refuses to be part of a process that is being hijacked and manipulated by the ANC to protect Jacob Zuma from accountability at all costs. The opposition will not legitimize this blatant undermining of the Constitution, for the protection of one man.

To date the ANC has abused its majority in the committee, attempting to:

Block the Opposition demand that Jacob Zuma appear at the committee;

Relegate the Public Protector Report to an equal level as reports of non-independent bodies;

Use reports other than the Public Protector Report to pin Nkandla liability on minor officials;

Reinterpret the Constitution to contend that compliance with Remedial Action of the Public Protector is optional, when it is patently not optional.

There are critical junctures in the development of our young democracy where it is necessary to stand up for what is right; to reject expedient solutions and to defend the rule of law.

When we, as a nation, negotiated and agreed on our Constitution in 1996, we acknowledged the repugnant past from which we had emerged. That past was characterized by the concept that ‘might is right', and in its name, freedom of expression and democratic rights were systematically suppressed, and the demands of the majority of South Africans were ignored.

The new Constitution, drawing on those experiences of our past, recognised the delicate balance between the right of the majority to govern, and the right of the minority to have its views properly accommodated and respected. Our Constitution, which is rightly admired around the world, developed an intricate system of checks and balances which would ensure openness, accountability, responsiveness and inclusivity. The government of Nelson Mandela exemplified those values, and the Parliament elected in 1994 gave it practical expression.

There has been a gradual, devious and worrying tendency over the years since then to undermine these values. Parliament has become increasingly executive-minded. 

Opportunities to hold the Executive to account have been watered down in a variety of ways - from avoiding Parliamentary questions to the absurd abuse of the rules of order to suppress legitimate political expression in the very institution that should allow it.

Today there is more freedom of speech in a street tavern than there is in the National Assembly.

The proceedings of the Nkandla ad hoc Committee on the Security Upgrades of the Private Residence of the President is a sorry, and worrying, further step away from the foundational values of our Constitution.

The Report of the Public Protector, and thereafter the Report of the SIU, indicated very clearly that there has been massive misappropriation of funds. The questions that needed to be answered were: Who authorised this?; Why were supply chain management processes blatantly ignored?; and ultimately, Who benefited, and by what amount, from the elaborate upgrade to the President's home?

Critically, the Nkandla ad hoc Committee required answers about the extent of the knowledge and therefore the responsibility of the President himself.

The ANC majority in the Ad Hoc Committee has now effectively stopped us from establishing those facts. The ANC majority has disregarded Parliament's very explicit responsibility, in terms of section 55 of the Constitution, to hold the Executive to account. 

This is a shameful abrogation of the responsibility of Members of Parliament.

But there is a further, and more worrying, aspect. Section 182(1)(c) of the Constitution provides that the Public Protector has the Constitutional duty in respect of maladministration or impropriety, amongst other things, "to take appropriate remedial action". In her Nkandla Report, entitled "Secure in Comfort", the Public Protector orders such remedial action in section 11.

All organs of state, including the President and Parliament, are enjoined by section 181(3) to "protect these institutions to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of these institutions." The failure of the President to acknowledge his responsibility to give effect to the remedial action ordered by the Public Protector represents a violation of section 181(3), a dereliction of his duty as President to uphold and defend the Constitution, and a negation of his Oath of Office.

The fact that the ANC majority on the Nkandla ad hoc Committee has sided with the President both to cover up his co-responsibility for the misappropriation of R246 million for the "security upgrades" to his private residence, as well as to undermine the Constitutional authority and status of the Public Protector, is frankly contemptible.

The Supreme Court Appeal has held unequivocally that "The office of the Public Protector is an important institution. It provides what will often be the last defence against bureaucratic oppression, and against corruption and malfeasance in public office that is capable of insidiously destroying the nation. If that institution falters, or finds itself undermined, the nation loses an indispensable constitution guarantee."

Those members may be able to live with their consciences, but the Opposition will not lend any validity to a craven act that dishonours the Constitution and turns Parliamentary accountability into a farce.

The nett effect of the actions of the ANC majority is that, henceforth, there will be a licence to ignore Chapter Nine institutions and Parliament. Accounting for one's actions will be an option to be exercised, not a duty to be performed. This is not what the drafters of the Constitution intended, as several of the members of the Nkandla ad hoc Committee who were members of the Constitutional Assembly very well know.

All Opposition parties therefore withdraws from the Nkandla ad hoc Committee.

But this will certainly not be the end of the matter. We will be consulting our respective legal teams, and we will await the judgment of Justice Schippers in a case relating to the power and authority of the Public Protector, currently in the Western Cape High Court. Depending on the legal advice we receive and on that judgment, we will take forward the campaign to hold President Zuma to full account, in every means possible.

Issued by the DA, September 26 2014


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