The ANC on Friday distanced itself from comments by the party’s outgoing chief whip Stone Sizani that Parliament had always wanted president Jacob Zuma to refund the state for improvements to his Nkandkla home.
“The views do not represent those of the ANC caucus,” the office of the chief whip, now headed by Sizani’s deputy Doris Dlakude, said.
“The ANC in Parliament reiterates its view that the matter of Nkandla, including its handling by Parliament, is amongst the matters currently before the Constitutional Court and a judgement in this regard is pending,” spokesman Moloto Mothapo said.
“We therefore await the outcome of the Concourt, which we shall implement as a sound and authoritative constitutional guide on these matters.”
The Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that Sizani termed a controversial report by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, which Parliament rubberstamped last year, “irrelevant”. Nhleko’s report directly contradicted that of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela who directed Zuma to repay the state for luxuries, including a swimming pool, added to his home in KwaZulu-Natal during a security upgrade that eventually swallowed R216 million in public funds.
Zuma maintained for years that he did not a owe a cent towards the cost but last month made a u-turn and proposed a court settlement that would see him refund at least R10 million.
The president’s lawyer, Jeremy Gauntlett, in outlining the proposal to the Constitutional Court, also described the police minister’s report as now irrelevant.
At the time it was released Nhleko had said he hoped it would bring the controversy that has haunted Zuma for years to an end. In adopting it, ANC MPs gave every indication that they believed it would be the end of the matter but this step prompted opposition parties to approach the Constitutional Court for an order finding Zuma had flouted the law by defying Madonsela, and forcing him to pay.
The official opposition Democratic Alliance on Friday dismissed Sizani’s reported remarks as a self-serving attempt to rescue his legacy. However, there has been indications that the ruling party has been divided over whether or not Zuma should pay back a portion of the cost of improving his property.
Madonsela found that he had derived undue benefit from the project. The ANC caucus argued in several committees that dealt with her report, that her directives were not binding on the state.
But she was vindicated by the Supreme Court of Appeal last year when it held that her findings had binding force and that state entities were not allowed to ignore them in favour of parallel reports on a particular subject, simply because they preferred a different outcome.