ANC Gauteng chair Paul Mashatile has said President Jacob Zuma’s delayed decision to pay back a portion of the R246?million spent on security upgrades at his rural homestead in Nkandla has caused huge damage to the image of the ANC and the South African government.

He also raised concerns about the perceived influence of the Gupta family on ANC politicians who have control over multibillion-rand state tenders.

Mashatile is one of the few ANC leaders who has been consistently critical of Zuma, particularly on the Nkandla matter.

When Police Minister Nathi Nhleko released a report last year exonerating Zuma and suggesting that more money should be spent on his private home, Mashatile said Nhleko’s conclusions did not represent the ANC’s position.

In 2014 Mashatile criticised former police minister Nathi Mthethwa for failing to inform Zuma about the costs of the Nkandla project, in line with the Cabinet policy on presidential security upgrades. Zuma at the time claimed he had few details of the upgrade and that he did not know what the costs would be.

‘He should have done it earlier’

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on the sidelines of the Gauteng State of the Province address in Sebokeng on Monday, Mashatile, who is also provincial human settlements minister, said he was happy that Zuma has now agreed to pay back a portion of the public money spent on Nkandla.

“The president has done well with the latest position. He should have done it earlier – that’s my view,” said Mashatile. “But the fact that he has done it is correct. It [the Nkandla saga] has had a very huge impact on us as a movement and that’s why I am happy that it is coming to an end.

“He [Zuma] needs to implement the decision of the public protector. Let’s put this thing behind us and move on, and address the key issues that the country is facing – the economy and so on. I am happy that the Nkandla saga will be put to rest,” said Mashatile.

He said he had no doubt that South Africans would forgive the ANC for the Nkandla matter.

“The integrity [of the ANC] can be restored. I think South Africans are very forgiving if you acknowledge your mistakes and seek to redress [them], and I think we will be doing exactly that. They will see that the ANC is doing the right thing. They will understand. I am happy that we will turn around and restore confidence among the people,” said Mashatile.

He did not agree with those calling for Zuma to step down.

“I think so far, what is needed is for him to rectify what has been asked for him to do – to pay back a portion of the money. For me, that should suffice. If the president accepts that the report be implemented, we would have gone a long way to resolve the problem and he can continue to lead us,” said Mashatile.

‘We worry about state capture by anybody’

Regarding the Guptas, who are said to exert undue influence over the president and the government, Mashatile said no one should be awarded state tenders because of their political connections.

“I have no problem with anybody doing business with government. I think all of us must do business the right way. I think an impression at the moment exists that they [the Gupta family] seem to be favoured and are getting easy access to state assets. If that is really the case, then it is not correct.

“That’s why there is a big worry in the ANC about state capture by anybody – not only the Guptas. We should not allow it.”

Mashatile said he supported fair processes where no one had an unfair advantage in securing government business.

“If they are part of people who are tendering in a fair way, if they participate fairly, then I will support that,” he said.