Deputy Minister of Public Works Jeremy Cronin has leapt to the defence of his boss, Thulas Nxesi, saying he should not be reprimanded by President Jacob Zuma over the Nkandla mess.
Nxesi, on the other hand, refused to take responsibility for the mess, saying it did not happen under his watch.
Cronin told Parliament on Wednesday, during the debate on the budget of the Department of Public Works, that both the Constitutional Court and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had called for Zuma to reprimand former public works minister Geoff Doidge.
He said that nowhere in the Constitutional Court judgment or the public protector’s report was there reference to Nxesi, but there was to his predecessor, Doidge.
In his defence against attacks from opposition MPs in the National Assembly, Nxesi said he could not be faulted for Nkandla.
“As minister of public works I took responsibility for Nkandla when I came in and not the blame for the irregularities, as they did not happen under my watch,” he told the House.
Cronin quoted a section from Madonsela’s report that Doidge and former police minister Nathi Mthethwa should be reprimanded.
Read more: Nkandla: ministers involved could be facing reprimands
Doidge is now South Africa’s high commissioner to Sri Lanka, after he was fired by Zuma in 2010. He was succeeded by the former House chairwoman in the National Assembly, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde.
Cronin said that when Nxesi took over the job from Mahlangu-Nkabinde, the Nkandla project was in full swing.
“Let us remind ourselves that Minister Nxesi was appointed in October 2011, long after the tenders had gone out,” said Cronin.
“The minister established a ministerial task team because of what we said at the time. We see so many malpractices,” he said.
He said Nxesi came back in January 2012 and reported on remedial action arising from the task team report.
Cronin said they were the first to call for remedial action against those involved in the Nkandla scandal. They were and continued to be opposed to the inflation of prices.
He said 12 officials were undergoing a disciplinary hearing. They had shared their report with the public protector.
“The minister did not await the public protector’s report; we proceeded with remedial action,” he said.
“The public protector’s report, which many people talk about but very few have read it, quotes extensively on the ministerial task team report,” said Cronin.
They were waiting for the court decision on May 22 on whether to allow media access to the disciplinary hearing of the officials charged over the Nkandla corruption.
Cronin said they were working to recover all the money from architect Minenhle Makhanya.
Makhanya was slapped with a R155 million lawsuit by the Special Investigating Unit.
Nxesi said there were many lessons they had learnt from the Nkandla scandal.
“One of the lessons learnt was that a project of this magnitude should not have been delegated to a regional structure,” he said.
The KwaZulu-Natal regional office of the department is at the centre of the procurement process in the Nkandla corruption scandal.
Nxesi said they had to tighten supply chain management procedures to prevent corruption of such a grand scale.