Zuma shirks responsibility in

Zuma shirks responsibility in Nkandla response

Four months overdue, President Jacob Zuma finally submits a reaction to the Nkandla report – once again passing the blame and responsibility to others

Zuma shirks responsibility in

President Jacob Zuma has finally published his official reaction to a number of separate reports on the security upgrades at his Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu Natal. Zuma’s own account submitted to the National Assembly serves to address – among others – Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s damning March report “Secure in Comfort”, which had placed a good deal of responsibility for the mismanagement of R246 million project with the president.

However, many commentators have already slammed Zuma’s response as simply passing responsibility on to others, published as a proverbial epitaph to a matter, which the president considers to be buried, and exemplified perfectly in Zuma’s four-month tardiness in submitting his own report.

Entitled “Report To The Speaker Of The National Assembly Regarding the Security Upgrades At The Nkandla Private Residence Of His Excellency President Jacob G Zuma,” the 20-page report largely relieves the president of any blame and places the weight of any future investigation with other government figures, chiefly leaving Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko to assess any wrongdoing.

Having served on several parliamentary committees before, the ANC heavyweight politician might appear to have the required background to evaluate the damage done, but his intimate relationship with the president as well as with other ANC leaders may make him a rather unlikely candidate to lead any sort of inquiry into one of the new South Africa’s biggest political scandals.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane reacted to Mr Nhleko’s controversial appointment to the position, saying that by choosing Nhleko the president had attempted to “avoid accountability for his role in the Nkandlagate scandal.”

“[M]inister [Nhleko] is appointed by the president – it’s the irony of a boss asking his junior to determine what the boss must pay back. Not only does his response undermine the public protector’s findings, but it is also an attempt by the president to act as both judge and jury on this matter,” Maimane commented on these latest developments.

Zuma furthermore tried to excuse a portion of his upgrades by quoting a lack of infrastructure at his rural Nkandla homestead, adding that key facilities such as a hospital would not only be necessary but would also benefit the community at large. He distanced himself from the “construction of buildings, which provide infrastructural support for security personnel,” saying that these were “directly attributable to the fact of my residence being located in a rural area with all the attendant challenges.”

The controversy surrounding Zuma’s Nkandla homestead had formed the backbone for many opposition party campaigns during the run-up to the general elections in May 2014, with various political factions using the Public Protector’s report to lay charges against the president and invoking impeachment procedures.

Having defended the upgrades as necessary measures following the 1998 rape of one of his wives on one occasion, Zuma had retreated into silence until publishing his official account this week.