Elections will take place on May 7 in South Africa, and the African National Congress (ANC) party is once again protecting President Jacob Zuma over the report that Zuma used government funds to lavishly upgrade his home, Nkandla.
The Nkandla scandal hit the headlines last year in both the global and local media. After the initial leak, the public protector, Thuli Madonsela, requested more time to finalize the report. Sporadic reports of events at Nkandla and unnecessary spending continued to circulate. The ANC announced that the final report would become public. This happened last week, and both Zuma and the governing party have come under fire from other political parties.
From the initial reporting of the Nkandla scandal until the release of the final report, Madonsela has been under constant attack and is snubbed by ANC members. Gwede Mantashe, a spokesperson for the ANC described her Nkandla report as political. Court proceedings against her are being considered by members of parliament.
South Africa is a country intensely separated by race and class, and Madonsela has emerged as an admirable person and respected figure by both black and white people of South Africa. Her hard work, professionalism and her impartiality offer a vision of real democracy. The attempts by the ANC ruling party to undermine the work of the public protector is an attack on the democracy system of South Africa.
The Nkandla scandal story is turning into a constitutional crisis, and the respected Trevor Manual argued that this braying condemnation by the ANC is an attack on the country’s democracy. The credibility of the ANC over the past year has fallen. The Marikana massacre marked a turning point of the party’s moral authority, yet the Nkandla scandal is more damaging to the ANC. The previous booing of Zuma during public appearances has done serious damage to the ANC and has placed the president in a precarious position.
The powerful ANC rule will drop in the upcoming South Africa elections, and a real possibility of the party securing a two-thirds majority may not happen now that the Nkandla report is final. Currently, the ANC is winning at the polls despite the escalating protests against the party.
It is likely the ANC party will quash this situation rather than improve it with reform. The party needs to build up the respect of the people, and this should include critical reflection, internal reform, and credible leadership. The approach the ANC takes can have a significant impact on the country and the elections.
The attempts to protect the president are a serious threat to democracy and governance of the country. The past five years have reflected on the interests of Zuma more so than the interests of the country, and after all has failed. It will be recalled as another liberation failure.
South Africans are forgiving people, and if the ANC corrects this dilemma in a submissive manner rather than continuing to attack the Public Protector, it could emerge as a committed party to democracy. The continued attacks against Madonsela will seriously damage the democracy as well as the ANC party.
The ANC have responded to questions raised by the media and Mantashe said the ANC did not start or end with Mandela, and for people to refer to the party leaders as not being similar to Mandela is an unfair statement to make.
An ANC member, Zweli Mkhize, said it was unfair to compare anyone to Mandela. Mkhize said the ANC was actually trying to fix problems of overspending and amounts expended on Zuma’s homestead should have been expected. He expressed concern over the “firepool” information received and said the ANC was upset about this report. Mantashe agreed that it was actually a swimming pool that was referenced and quoted the Commissioner of Police as having lied about the description and called for action against her.
Madonsela admitted her final report was quite different to the leaked information last year. She also found the timing of the release of the Nkandla report by the ANC concerning, as it occurred just before the elections. Madonsela mentioned that president Zuma did not willfully mislead parliament but gave the wrong information based on an old structure and not understanding the question.
Gwede Mantashe said this scandal should not affect the voting and the ANC will probably get sixty percent of the votes. When asked about the booing of Zuma, Mantashe said it is normal, and politicians are subject to such situations. He went on to say that there was no need for the ANC to apologize as the party was not mentioned in the report. He said the officials who published inaccurate information must be censored. Zuma he said will pay for some of the upgrades, and this will be discussed between the president and government ministers, not the ANC.
Mantashe criticized the comments from some political parties calling for the impeachment of Jacob Zuma and said there are serious consequences for people referred to in the report. He cited the inflation prices as the main problem for the high expenditure on Nkandla. He admitted that the report raised serious irregularities and those responsible will face appropriate consequences. The ANC, he assured the media, would not undermine the report as it was not their intention at all. He believed there was no political interference with the report and said the timing of the release is difficult.
The ANC has supported Jacob Zuma throughout his political career and during earlier corruption and embarrassing personal actions. The public protector, Madonsela, found the President to have benefited from the upgrade to his private residence, Nkandla.
The past actions of the government and how they have dealt with corruption will determine the ruling on this report. The government can use this opportunity to initiate a positive shift in attitude and restore confidence in people who are angry and annoyed with the wasteful government spending.
The ANC youth league told a media briefing that Madonsela was an opposition instrument and mentioned her frequent visits with the Democratic Alliance during her Nkandla investigation. They are preparing to call on the government to investigate her credibility.
The ANC together with President Jacob Zuma will surely find valid reasons to justify the Nkandla spending ahead of the elections in South Africa. This party has fiercely shown their support for Zuma and will continue to do so. Nkandla is just another nasty government scheme by the president of South Africa.
Opinion by Laura Oneale
Crucifying President Jacob Zuma