Nkandla: SANEF criticism unfair - Office of ANC Chief Whip

It is beyond Speaker's powers to decide who should access the private family home of the President


22 July 2015

The Office of the ANC Chief Whip is disappointed by the unfortunate allegations levelled against Parliament by Sanef regarding the institution's inability to grant journalists permission to accompany the ad hoc committee members to the President's private residence in Nkandla. The allegations are without basis, ill-informed and reflects a misunderstanding of the basic functioning of parliament and the scope of its powers granted to it by the Constitution.

The Constitution of South Africa is instructive that Parliament must conduct its business in a manner that is open, transparent, accountable and thus must open its work to the public, including the media. The institution has adhered strictly to this Constitutional principle without fail, other than in very few instances where the law and the Constitution would direct it otherwise. 

The powers and functions of the Speaker, to whom the request for media access to the President's residence was made by the Media24, are restricted to Parliament, and do not extend to the residence of the President. This simply means while she has the power over ensuring public access to parliamentary sittings within and outside the seat of Parliament in Cape Town, as she has done regarding the ad hoc committee meetings currently taking place at the KZN Legislature in Pietermaritzburg, it is beyond her powers to decide who should access the private family home of the President. Such authority resides elsewhere and definitely not with the Speaker or the chairperson of the ad hoc committee. 

Sanef's expectation that Parliament should have the authority over who accesses the President's home and its subsequent criticism of the institution for its inability to do so is without foundation and unfair. The ANC would be the first to speak out against any undue interference with or limitations on media's right to media freedom. However, we believe that Media 24 did itself a disservice by directing its request to the inappropriate authority. 

We are pleased that the Presidency has undertaken to give the media access to public areas around the homestead such as as the helipad, the clinic and houses for personnel.

Statement issued by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, July 22 2015