WINDHOEK – The ANC could not have found itself in a more awkward position with less than seven weeks to go to the national elections after damning revelations on Nkandla by the public protector.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela laid bare how South Africa splurged over N$200 million on security upgrades to the private homesteads of President Jacob Zuma and his family.
“The records of the Department of Public Works indicate that by the time the investigation was concluded the total expenditure of the project for the Department of Public Works amounted to R215.4 million,” reads the report titled “SECURE IN COMFORT” released last week by South Africa’s public protector Madonsela.
“The report has given the opposition some ammunition with which to fight, especially to political delegitimize the ANC and its government,” said local political commentator, Phanuel Kaapama.
During a telephonic interview with New Era on Monday, Kaapama said the ANC would be stronger if it takes action against Zuma, but at the same time warned that the party risks disappointing its die-hard supporters if no action is taken against the party president as the electorate would be left to conclude the party condones the misuse of public funds.
Kaapama said the use of the report to delegitimize the ANC would depend on the strategies the opposition parties apply and how the ANC counters them.
He noted that the ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, distanced the party from the saga saying: “The ANC does not own a house called Nkandla but one named Albert Luthuli House,” adding that it is a clear indication of a rift between Zuma and some party members.
He said the ANC would want to use its energy on other issues rather than the embarrassing Nkandla saga.
“This thing [Nkandla saga] will not only affect the ANC from now till the polls, it will impact them beyond the elections as well,” said Kaapama.
Kaapama said the ANC currently finds itself in a “tricky” situation because if it takes action against Zuma it may backfire by rocking the ANC boat and at the same time irk the pro-Zuma ANC members, while if no action is taken it could be interpreted as the party allowing such activities.
“They may not touch Zuma now, but they will surely be looking whether he is the right man to continue leading after the polls,” he said.
Another political commentator, George Mayumbelo, described the state of affairs as “very tricky” for the ANC, and suggested that a thorough cost benefit analysis should be done to control the damage.
“It is an awkward situation and a challenging time for the ruling party. There are other issues such as poverty, people feeling marginalised and a slow development rate which is not improving the lives of the people fast enough, and now there is this situation of Nkandla,” said Mayumbelo.
Mayumbelo blamed the money wastage on a poor procurement process, adding that the process was not transparent and had loopholes that eventually led to “wastage” of public funds.
“The voters are surely questioning the spending priority of the government,” said Mayumbelo.
“How they [ANC] deal with this situation will be interesting. The way they dealt with it so far one can see there is division in the party, especially when partly elders are reluctant to overtly endorse the party to voters. It could be a sign that their conscience is telling them something is not right,” he said.
In order to manage the damage, Mayumbelo said, the ANC now has to do a thorough cost benefit analysis to ensure that it maintains power.
The ANC is hoping to gain a two-third majority during the upcoming elections after narrowly missing out during the 2009 polls, even though it managed to dominate the National Assembly with 264 seats compared to its closest competitor, the Democratic Alliance, with 67.
Secure in Comfort
“It is common cause that in the name of security, government built for the president and his family in his private [home] a visitors centre, cattle kraal and chicken run, swimming pool and amphitheatre, among others,” the report said.
The estimated cost of Phase 3 of the project that has not been implemented is R31.1 million which will bring its total cost to R246.6 million.
It is also stated in the report that the investigation revealed that seven teams of professional consultants involved in Nkandla were paid R50.35 million for phases 1 and 2.
By Mathias Haufiku