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President Zuma on Nkandla scandal

November 21, 2012 in South Africa

This blog deals with political and social issues in South Africa, mostly from the perspective of Constitutional Law. Written by Pierre de Vos

Constitutional Hill

Transcript of the reply by President Jacob Zuma to question for oral reply in the National Assembly, November 15 2012:

24. The Leader of the Opposition [Lindiwe Mazibuko] (DA) to ask the President of the Republic:

(1)  Whether he instructed his Minister of Public Works to cease all building on his Nkandla home pending the outcome of an investigation announced by the Public Protector; if not, why not; if so, when;

(2)  whether his instruction was carried out; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details?   NO3849E

Question 24:

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, hon member, let me make one thing quite clear from the outset. I have noted all sorts of public comments to the effect that the government built my home in Nkandla. My residence in Nkandla has been paid for by the Zuma family. [Interjections.] All the buildings and every room we use in that residence were built by ourselves as a family and not by government. [Applause.] I have never asked government to build a home for me, and it has not done so. The government has not built a home for me.

A necessary distinction must therefore be made between work which I have mandated and initiated in my home, as opposed to the security enhancement undertaken by government. On the basis of a security risk assessment undertaken by a team drawn from the Departments of Defence and Military Veterans, Police and State Security, I was approached to allow security upgrades or enhancement to be made to my Nkandla residence, which was already in existence. [Applause.]

I was advised that the security upgrades were indeed necessary in terms of the National Key Points Act, Act 102 of 1980. Therefore, all the security enhancements that have been undertaken by the Department of Public Works at my residence in Nkandla have been part of these security requirements.

Any other construction undertaken by government, beyond the premises of my home, such as the accommodation for government security personnel, are not part of my residence. [Applause.]

I have been advised by the Minister of Public Works that he has established a task team of experts to investigate whether supply chain procedures were properly followed by the department when it carried out the security upgrades. In addition, the Auditor-General has been requested to audit all classified prestige projects. The Minister has also instructed the department to cooperate with investigations by any other authorised agency. I fully support these investigations. [Applause.]

We will not pre-empt the outcome of these investigations or respond to speculation at this stage. We must respect the institutions that are investigating, and the processes that have been started. Should the investigations unearth wrongdoing of any kind, the necessary actions will be taken as we have done in respect of irregularities in other instances. [Applause.]

Hon Speaker, I think it will be very beneficial for your House to have a clearer understanding of my residence, so that, when you discuss my residence, you are not basing it on speculation, but know exactly what has happened. Let me help this House, because the hon members have been asking questions and some have even visited my home. [Laughter.] There has been a lot written and shown on the television about my homes. I think it is important for me to help you, hon Speaker, and your House, to understand the facts as they are so that even those who will be asking follow-up questions do so within that context.

We, as the Zuma family have built our home. [Interjections.] Let me give you the background. What, for example, has been shown on television – which has caused a lot of hullaballoo for many people – are my houses, built by me and my family. They have not been built by government. [Applause.] My home has been there for a long time. At one point, because of violence in our province, much as I wanted to extend my home, I could not, because houses were being burnt down as a result of violence. Indeed, my own residence was burnt down twice. I always replaced the rondavels as they were before because there was still violence.

Once violence was over, I took the decision to extend my home and I built more modern rondavels. I also fenced my home. I engaged the banks and I am still paying a bond on the first phase of my home. [Applause.] Even at that time, there were many allegations. If hon members remember, it is not the first time that my home has been paraded on television. Those rondavels were paraded accompanied by lots of allegations. Yet, I am still paying a bond to this day.

As a family, in our own time and right, we decided to upgrade our homestead. There are two homesteads that we have upgraded. The other one does not appear on television because there are no security features on it. That is where, in fact, we started upgrading. We started at our residence called Empindamshaye. All of us have a manner of working together as an extended family. We do things together. When the upgrading at that one had reached the finishing touches stage, we started with the one where I stay.

We got contractors to come and construct, which meant we were extending our home. At that point, what was provided to me then as a Deputy President was static security at a particular level. They built their own place to sleep as they work shifts. There were very limited security features at that rondavel.

When I became the President, all of us in the family agreed to extend our home, as I was extending it. Then government came and said that it had to install security features at my residence. By the time government came, the contractors were on site that had been enlisted by the family and not by the government or Public Works. Government had a plan regarding what it wanted to do. Government wanted to improve the fence, etc. I told government that I had my own plan – which was a comprehensive plan – to extend my home. What then happened was that I allowed government to meet with the contractors who were already on site because government, from a security point of view, insisted that they needed to participate.

So, even the manner in which the question was asked – the question being: have you instructed the Minister to tell the contractors to stop working – suggests that the contractors were brought by Public Works. Public Works found those contractors constructing my home.

They had to agree to what government wanted them to do at my home. The government had specific things they wanted to do to my houses, not build houses for me. A wrong impression has been created in the country, that the government has built a home for me. That is not true. People are speaking without knowing, saying I have spent so much of the government’s money. I have never done so. [Applause.] It is unfair, but I do not want to use harsher words, because you believe that people like me cannot build a home.

What has government done? There are two different things: my homes that are built by me and my family, and the security features that the government wanted to attach to satisfy their own requirements. These are basically in my home, in the main, fencing, bullet-proofing windows – not all the windows, specific ones – and the bunker. These are matters that the government… don’t ask me, don’t ask me. I think you must respect me because I have respected people on this issue and I don’t want to be a football. [Interjections.] [Applause.] You must listen! If you are genuinely concerned, listen, because I want to help you to understand. [Interjections.]

The SPEAKER: Order, hon members! Order!

The PRESIDENT: Now, this is what has happened. The government installed security features to my houses that were built by me, but constructed by the contractors that were commissioned by us long before the government came with its plan. That must be very clear. The houses that are paraded on television as having been built by the government, that is not true. I am also happy because the investigations are taking place.

What the government did, given its own considerations of security, was to build other houses beyond my home for the security personnel. These are not shown on television and these are really the government’s houses, but I do not know how much they cost. What is shown is my house that I have paid for and it is a lie that it has been built by the government. It has not been built by the government.

Today, hon Speaker, I have the opportunity to explain this, because my name is being used wrongly. My family is being undermined, by the very hon members who do not ask what actually happened. I feel very aggrieved, and I must tell you for the first time.

You then have leaders of political parties who do not know whether they are provincial or national, taking trips to come and photograph my home and make a laughing stock of my family. I take exception to this! You must deal with the facts you know.

The houses that were built by the government for its security personnel have not been shown. Now, I do not know where this amount of money went to, because it could not have been so much for just these three items. There are houses beyond my home meant for the government, which have nothing to do with my home. However, all of that is being piled on me as having used R200 million and therefore I am very corrupt. I take exception! Whoever is going to insist on, after this explanation, is not only going to tell me but also prove to me where I have used all of this money. [Applause.]

Hon Speaker, I respect all human beings and I cannot jump whenever there are rumours or allegations. We often say, if allegations have not been tested and proven, they remain allegations. I have been convicted, painted black, called the first class corrupt man on facts that have not been tested. I take exception! I want you, when you ask your questions, to ask your questions properly. You must not discuss issues you do not know. If you want clarity, ask for clarity. I thought it is important for me to explain this.

It is absolutely important, when you ask the Minister of Public Works, to ask about specific issues related to the government and not about my home. Not about my home! I want everybody to be clear because you have made people in this country to believe that government has built a home for me. It is not true! It is not true! The Zuma family has built its own home for its own comfort. They have not asked anyone. [Applause.]

Hon Speaker, I thought I should explain this to help your House, so that if it is interested in discussing this matter further, they must discuss it with correct facts, facts that are clear. I had nothing to do with the contractor who constructed houses out there. I have everything to do with the contractors who are still building my home today. Government only dealt with them to discuss how to install the security features, nothing more. Therefore, even the question asking me whether I have instructed the Minister to order the contractor to stop construction is premised on ignorance and not on knowing what the situation is. I thought it is important, hon Speaker, to clarify this. Thank you very much. [Applause.]

The LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hon Speaker, let me be very clear. The fact that the hon President’s house is his own home built by himself is exactly what is at issue today. The fact that government is spending R250 million to upgrade, not a presidential house but the President’s own house, built by himself, his own private residence and not a state residence, is at issue today. Clearly, the hon President is determined to hide behind the same apartheid laws that his Minister are determined to hide behind.

So, hon Speaker, I do have a follow-up question because hon President, if you want to talk about security enhancements, let’s talk about security enhancements. There are 31 new buildings, six of which cost eight million rand each. Is that a security enhancement? Two million and three hundred thousand rand for lifts to carry…

The SPEAKER: Order, hon members!

The LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: …the hon President to his underground bunker. Is that a security enhancement? Is air-conditioning systems for everyone of the houses, at a cost of R1,5 million a security enhancement? Are guestrooms, a visitors’ centre and a gymnasium security enhancements? Mr Speaker, I will be very clear. The fact that this is the hon President’s private is something that we take exception to. The government does not have the responsibility to upgrade at a cost of R250 million, the private home of the hon President.[Interjections.]

Adv T M MASUTHA: Speaker, on a point of order: There is a Constitution in this country over and above the rules of this House. To my knowledge, there is a Bill of Rights in that Constitution, which is binding on this House as well. In that Bill of Rights there is a right to privacy. I cannot understand why every other South African has a right to privacy except the President, the first citizen of this country. Can’t the hon Leader of the Opposition…[Interjections.]… respect the right to privacy of the President?

The LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hon Speaker, when the public has to pay R250 million to upgrade that privacy, it ceases to be private. Hon President, do the gym, the guestrooms, the air-conditioning, the visitors’ centre and the 31 new buildings constitute security enhancements? Thank you very much.[Applause.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, once again the hon member is premising her question on information that is not accurate. The additional houses that I put in my home are only five. She has given a huge number of houses that I have nothing to do with. She then added the amounts of money on houses that neither I nor anyone has paid for. I paid for my five additional houses to the rondavels I talked about. She must not include things that do not belong to me. She must talk about things that belong to me and that I paid for. What the security has done for security features does not include the houses you have counted. They are neither in my residence nor my home. She must ask the question differently to the relevant people who could answer it. She must ask me about the five houses I have talked about and I will give you the answer. [Applause.]

IsiXhosa:

Mr B H HOLOMISA: Mhlalingaphambili, Nxamalala, ndicinga ukuba ingcaciso oyinikileyo ukuba yayichazwe nguMphathiswa osingathe lo mcimbi kwakuqala kanye ngolu hlobo uyibeke ngalo, mhlawumbi ngowucacile lo mcimbi. Ngoku ke, kuba usithi ukuba le Palamente iyafuna ukuwuxoxa lo mcimbi, ingawuxoxa kodwa bendiya kucebisa ukuba laa mzi wakho yenye yeendawo ezingundoqo ngenxa yokuba unguMongameli. Ngoko ke, mna bendiya kucebisa into yokuba, ukuba kuyavunyelwana makuthunyelwe ikomiti eyahlolwayo ngokweenkqubo yezobuntlola apha ePalamente, iKomiti ejongene neMicimbi yeSebe lezobuNtlola ukuze iqwalasele – [Uwelewele.] [Kwahlekwa.] – hayi …

The SPEAKER: Order, hon members!

Mnu B H HOLOMISA:

… unguMphathiswa into oyiyo. Ndiyacebisa apha kuba kukho ingxaki – ukuze iqwalasele zonke ezi zinto kuba abaphicothi ziincwadi aba kuthiwa mabenze uphando, abanye babo abahlolwanga ngokwenkqubo yezobuntlola.

English:

This is a security risk exercise.

IsiXhosa:

Ndicela ukuba niyiqwalasele loo nto – ungabe ungxola nje wena ungazi nento apha. [Kwahlekwa.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, if I heard well, the hon member is making a proposal. There is an investigation already taking place and I would imagine that the hon member is, perhaps, correctly saying that we should have all the facts and discuss intelligently. At the moment, we are going to ask questions based on false information. If this House would want to discuss anything from that angle, it is not going to help. I think the proposal that has just been made is for this House to consider. Insofar as I am concerned, the Minister has said that he will be sending an investigating team. I hope that there will be facts gathered. The Public Protector has said that she is conducting preliminary investigations. The member is saying that we need screened people because of the fact that it is a security point. That is a very sensible point.[Applause.]There is no country that discusses these kinds of matters in public. I think the member is sobering this House and I am sympathetic to his proposal. Thank you.[Applause.]

Ms  M DREYER: Mr Speaker, if the President is disputing the figures given by the Leader of the Opposition and the previous speaker, will he commit to giving us the correct figure spent by the Department of Public Works as well as a breakdown of the items on which this money has been spent?[Applause.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, if the hon member thinks that I must know the accounting books of a department and count figures, I think she is demanding a lot from me. I don’t the figures because it is not my job to do that. The proposal has been made by the hon member that we need people who have been properly screened to get the facts. This will help the hon Leader of the Opposition not to ask the question and give figures that do not belong to me. Thank you, hon Speaker.[Applause.]

IsiZulu:

Mnu V B NDLOVU:  Somlomo, mhlonishwa Mongameli, lokhu kukhuluma kungaze kube kuningi kangaka, mhlonishwa Mongameli, kudalwa uNgqongqoshe wakho lo wezeMisebenzi yoMphakathi. Ukuba uNgqongqoshe wezeMisebenzi yoMphakathi wachaza njengoba uchaza nje ngabe akukho konke lokhu kukhuluma. Manje-ke, indaba la eyonakala khona ingoba akakwazi ukuhlukanisa izinto phakathi.

Ngakho-ke, lokho okuphakamiswa umhlonishwa uHolomisa, noma ungakwemukela Mongameli, kepha umhlonishwa uNxesi kufanele aze la kule Ndlu esitshele ukuthi wayethini kanti ngomuzi wakho. [Uhleko.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, the hon member is making a suggestion to this House and I think it is this House that has the right to respond to that because I can’t determine what this House must do. I don’t know whether the Minister was asked the right question from the beginning. He must have answered on the basis what questions were presented to him. I am not sure whether he was asked to describe the details of how my residence was built, not just now. Dealing with a specific issue which was asked, as I understood, he responded. However, if there was a proposal, I don’t think one would have a problem with that.

Hon Speaker, I usually read the Hansard even from the olden days. Before I sit down, I just want to share with the House an incident that happened some time ago and was recorded in Hansard. Maybe the House will be interested. This was in the olden days. Hon members, let me share with you an interesting quotation that I found in Hansard, a record of a parliamentary question during question session in this House on 28 August 1981. The hon member, Mr R R Hulley, asked the hon Prime Minister P W Botha as follows:

Whether the organisation known as the Congress of the People, Cope, has been provided with financial assistance by the state? If so, (a) by which department? (b) What was the total amount involved? (c) For what purpose was such assistance provided?

That was Cope with C-o-p-e.[Laughter.] Prime Minister PW Botha responded as follows and I am sure the finger was up there[Laughter.]: “No, the hon member must learn not to allow himself to be misused to spread unfounded stories.”[Applause.]If hon Speaker were to ask a question: Was Cope in existence then… [Laughter.]…or have we seen the reincarnation of the Cope? Was it deep and only resurfaced at a given time? That would be an interesting question. Thank you very much, hon Speaker.[Laughter.][Applause.]

Mr D A KGANARE: Speaker, on a point of order: I just to know whether the hon President is equating himself to PW Botha?

The SPEAKER: Order, hon members! Hon members, the office has received a document for the Department of Defence’s withdrawal to the response he made and this will be published.

The House adjourned at 16:02.

Source: Hansard, Unrevised transcript

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