Nathi Nhleko reportedly slams ANC SG Fikile Mbalula over Nkandla fire pool comments

Demonstration of the fire pool at President Jacob Zuma's home, Nkandla. File Picture: Jacques Naude/Independent Newspapers

Demonstration of the fire pool at President Jacob Zuma's home, Nkandla. File Picture: Jacques Naude/Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 9, 2024


Former police minister Nathi Nhleko, who was one of the ministers who presided over the R200 million Nkandla upgrades and the fire pool saga, has reportedly slammed Fikile Mbalula, describing him as the worst secretary general in the African National Congress’s 112 year history.

In a leaked voice note shared widely on social media on Tuesday morning, Nhleko reportedly slammed Mbalula for a lack of strategic and tactical leadership, while also describing him as immature.

Mbalula said this week that the ANC had lied to Parliament to protect former president Jacob Zuma, who is now leading the newly-formed uMkhonto weSizwe party (MK).

“We defended former president Zuma, even going to Parliament and saying that a swimming pool is a fire pool. The minister of police (Nhleko) was sober, it is difficult to explain lies, people have lost their careers because of that thing,” Mbalula said.

“It went to the Constitutional Court and Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng issued a scathing judgment against Zuma, but the ANC stood by him. Today, he says he can’t standby the president (Cyril Ramaphosa) who has no judgment against him.”

In this May 2015 picture, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko accompanied by Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi giving an update on the Nkandla Project during the media briefing at Imbizo Media Centre in Cape Town. Picture: Ntswe Mokoena

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela found in 2014 that Zuma and his family unduly benefited from the upgrades, and said Zuma should pay back a portion of the cost.

The Constitutional Court later confirmed Zuma had to repay over R7.8 million for upgrades at his private home.

Nhleko Nkandla Defence

In July 2015, at the height of the Nkandla upgrades saga, Nhleko produced a report which found that the culvert, chicken run, cattle kraal, swimming pool, amphitheatre and visitors’ centre all formed part of security upgrades to Zuma’s home.

He also said more money had to spent on the Nkandla security upgrades as they had been compromised after they were leaked in the media during the saga. The report was released after Madonsela’s scathing Secure In Comfort report.

Nhleko, who was fired from Cabinet by President Cyril Ramaphosa in February 2018, was scathing in his assessment of Mbalula and continued to defend his role in the Nkandla saga.

Nhleko on Mbalula

“I am convinced now, and I don't like to talk about these things. In the ANC if we still have a secretary general like this one, the worst of its kind ever, in the 112 year liberation movement, we will not get anywhere because you can't speak before you think. It just can't happen that way. In fact it is a typical behaviour of a dung beetle,” Nhleko is believed to have said on the recording.

Nhleko reportedly said Mbalula was making things worse for the ANC and decried that there was a leadership vacuum since Zuma sent the governing party into a tail spin when he announced on December 16 that he would be joining the MK Party.

“You can't have someone with leadership responsibility behave in a way that he is behaving. It is making it worse,” he is reported to have said.

“If he says I was lying, he must say who gave instructions to lie on behalf of the ANC. If he cannot do that, he is in trouble because you will discover there is no such person because there was no such.

“In fact, the investigation I ran was scientific and backed up with reports by different experts in the field of engineering, construction, security and cultural experts. If you say I lied, you must say here is proof that what I said is not true,” the voice in the recording continues.

Meanwhile, ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe said Mbalula got carried away by TV cameras and media presence and said he should not have reopened the Nkandla saga.

“I thought he was carried away by you guys, he saw your cameras he got taken away and he said things he should not have said,” he said.

Mantashe, in a vote of confidence to Mbalula, said he liked that he was active and energetic, but said he had to watch his mouth.

“I think it’s something he will learn in the trade. As you grow, you understand that better. You can say things without being excited but say and explain things very well,” he said.

Meanwhile, ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu told EWN they would not respond to ANC members publicly and said the matter would be addressed internally.

“Comrade Nathi knows himself that any matter gets to be ventilated internally, this is part of our internal democratic practice,” said Bhengu.

IOL has made attempts to contact the former minister but had so far been unsuccessful.

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