Doris Dlakude and Jackson Mthembu address the media
After two years of dizzying ANC spin and opposition antics, there were high hopes on April Fools’ Day that the protracted Nkandla affair might finally stop dominating the Hansard reports on Parliament.
This might have been feasible if the president had done the honourable thing and agreed to – or, even better, insisted on – stepping down after his drubbing from Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Amid President Jacob Zuma’s bold alert that he would address the nation, a wizened colleague advised me not to cancel my dinner plans. Seeing through the frenzied hype, she anticipated Zuma’s stand-to-attention as a foolhardy move.
After Zuma confirmed he was going nowhere, the Nkandla circus once again became the only show on the precinct on Tuesday, when Parliament resumed after recess. Distracted MPs – from both the ANC and opposition caucuses – rushed through important portfolio committee meetings to konkel (get together and scheme) before the 14:00 sitting of the House.
When new ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu convened a media briefing the following day, he defended the majority party’s decision to block the opposition’s motion to remove the president.
But he also showed humility, and even regret, that the ANC had rammed through the infamous resolution passed in the National Assembly by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, which absolved Zuma from complying with the remedial action set by the Public Protector and which the Constitutional Court order has now nullified.
His deputy, Doris Dlakude, took a harder line in her insistence that the process that Parliament had followed was not faulty.
Then she rehashed the nonsensical narrative that Zuma had always planned to pay back the money. “The president didn’t say he wouldn’t pay … He waited for advice as to how much he should pay,” she insisted.
But Dlakude overlooked Zuma’s report to the Speaker of the National Assembly in August 2014 – five months after the Public Protector’s damning findings were released.
He stated clearly that a determination needed to be made as “to whether the president is liable for any contribution in respect of the security upgrades”.
And the president asked Nhleko to determine this question of liability. He also tasked the police minister to report back to Cabinet on a determination, instead of Treasury, as stipulated by the Public Protector.
The subsequent report by the little-known, newly appointed minister absolved his master, made a laughing stock of Parliament and irked the Constitutional Court.
Amid the spin, there are some indisputable facts from the past two years that cannot be expunged. The governing party should consult the records.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan after the opposition's failed motion against the president.
The Hansard and other archives have documented what must be the lowest performance in Parliament since the advent of democracy in 1994, and the sorry chapter is not yet over.
This column first appeared on Media 24 platforms in April: http://www.news24.com/Columnists/Janet-Heard/spinning-the-yarn-on-nkandla-20160411-2