Columns 26.3.2014 08:00 am

Thuli too soft on Zuma

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela made a crucial error in her Nkandla report. Jacob Zuma lied to Parliament. No doubt about that.

Madonsela says so on page 64: “President Zuma told Parliament that his family had built its own houses and the state had not built any for them or benefited them. This was not true… in the name of security, government built for the president and his family … a visitors’ centre, cattle kraal and chicken run, swimming pool and amphitheatre among others. The president and his family clearly benefited from this.”

Yet, surprisingly, she let him off the hook by saying he addressed Parliament in good faith, not thinking about the visitors’ centre, but about family dwellings. No logical reason is given for this conclusion. She says his statement is “consistent with those made by ministers of public works throughout the public outcry over the Nkandla expenditure”.

Yet these successive ministers were bending the truth. So Zuma was perpetuating the same lies. Nor is there any legal reason for exonerating him on the parliamentary lie. It is not within the Public Protector’s ambit to interpret his motives. Such interpretation is for the courts, which might come to a different reading of his intention.

Madonsela was being too generous, considering the treatment she received from Zuma and his lackeys. The 447-page document shows Zuma was obstructive and unco-operative. He was responsible for delays, and he ducked many questions directly asked of him.

Pierre de Vos, one of the complainants who helped initiate the Nkandla probe, describes how, for example, Zuma avoided and ignored questions about the bond which the president said was being used to finance improvements.

After written approaches failed, Madonsela met Zuma personally on August 11, 2013. At that meeting she gave him a set of written questions and he undertook to provide a written response. In his belated reply he “denied that he was ever apprised of the fact that his conduct formed part of my investigation”. In my view he lied to her right there. Her written questions, which are in the report (page 271), did in fact refer to his conduct. He lied in what he did say and what he didn’t say. So, knowing that he had been untruthful, why did she give him the benefit of the doubt on the matter of misleading Parliament?

This indulgence on Madonsela’s part has given ammunition to Zuma’s lapdogs in the ANC who cite it as proof that he did no wrong, which is nonsense. When it suits them they say, hypocritically, that Madonsela’s findings do not have the force of court rulings.

The truth is we have a president who on at least three occasions (Shaik trial, Guptagate and Nkandla) should have been held to account for prima facie cases of corruption. Miraculously he “didn’t know” there was anything wrong with his relationship with Shaik, or the Guptas, and he “didn’t know” we were paying for non-security upgrades at his home. Bollocks.

Each of his great escapes takes us further into the abyss of a corrupt, failed state where leaders pay no heed to accountability. That’s why we should all support the moves to impeach him and to have him charged.

Lying to Parliament is the most serious of his many offences. It should lead to his removal from office. Thuli is admirably courageous but she should have been tougher.

 

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