Is Nkandla Zuma’s nail in the

Is Nkandla Zuma’s nail in the coffin?

Far away from any major political event on the horizon and three months following the last general elections, South Africans witnessed a week of turmoil in parliament – and beyond

Is Nkandla Zuma’s nail in the

Malema Madonsela

The National Assembly closed down last Thursday following a rowdy protest led by Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in reaction to President Jacob Zuma’s perceived lack of action with regards to the now-infamous Nkandla report.

After raising the issue of expected repayments for Nkandla in parliament without receiving a satisfactory response from the president, EFF members started shouting “we want the money”, forcing the Speaker of the National Assembly to suspend the session on account of the disruptive behaviour. This marked the second occasion in three months that the speaker had been pushed to do so because of EFF members.

But this would all merely mark the beginning of the events that were to follow. Fuelled by the initiative of the EFF, political commentators zeroed in on the president’s chosen tactics in dealing with the Nkandla scandal, causing a public debate, which drew both President Zuma and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela back into a renewed duel of words.

Madonsela wrote a seven-page letter to the president over the weekend, urging him to take action other than appointing political heavyweights loyal to him to deal with the situation. Zuma had only recently acknowledged the Public Protector’s input and had put Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko in charge of assessing any wrongdoing.

“I am concerned that the decision you have made regarding the police minister gives him power he does not have under law, which is to review my decision taken in pursuit of the powers of administrative scrutiny I am given […] by the Constitution,” Madonsela wrote to Zuma.

“As I have already indicated, reports of the public protector are by law not subject to any review or second-guessing by a minister and/or the Cabinet.”

Madonsela’s suggested course of action can still legally be challenged but only by going through the respective courts-of-law; the appointment of Nhleko to assess the situation and deliver a verdict is deemed unconstitutional, as Madonsela underscored in her letter to the President, hinting at potential grounds for impeachment on multiple levels.

The ANC was quick to react to the letter, attacking Madonsela’s personal involvement in the matter and saying that this in turn could be read as undermining the parliamentary process.

“The extraordinary conduct of the Public Protector raises questions about her neutrality on this matter which might undermine the credibility of her conduct or the intentions of her report. With reluctance, we suspect that the Public Protector has dealt with the investigation as a personal matter outside of the Constitutional mandate of the office,” ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said.

“It does appear that while the Public Protector has submitted her report to Parliament she has no confidence in the institution and its independence as the arm of state. We are confident that Parliament and its committees will act in the interest of public good and we do not doubt their bonafides.”

Following these tit-for-tat responses, it may be fair to say that Malema, Madonsela and indeed the entire nation will be waiting for the president’s next move.

Nkandla became a hot topic again recently after Zuma had posted his 20-page report earlier in August in response to Public Protector’s March findings on the president’s private homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu Natal. Madonsela had detailed in her original “Secure in Comfort” report that the president’s family had unduly benefitted from the alleged security updates to the homestead and should therefore be held accountable and repay part of the costs as a suggested course of remedial action. Madonsela’s report had formed the basis of various campaigns against the President’s re-election ahead of the May 2014 polls.