“We wish to reaffirm the ANC’s respect and support for all institutions established by the Constitution to support our democracy, including the office of the Public Protector. We, however, do not believe that any principled criticism based on the work of these institutions, or disagreement expressed in the course of robust debates in parliament, is tantamount to “vicious attacks” – as claimed by the Public Protector today,” Stone Sizani’s office said.
“In our view such a claim is without foundation and thus unfortunate.”
Madonsela on Monday told a media briefing that her office had been subjected to sustained, spiteful criticism since it released “Secure in Comfort”, the report on state spending on Zuma’s rural home in Nkandla that called on him to reimburse part of the R246 million cost. She went on to say she regretted having to speak about the matter through the media, as she was not invited to discuss it with Parliament’s ad hoc committee studying a contradictory report by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko.
Sizani countered that the committee was established to study the minister’s report, not hers. He added that her report was inaccurate in that it described Zuma’s home as opulent, when MPs who visited it last week were shocked at the poor state of workmanship that characterised the project.
“We wish to reiterate that the committee’s terms of reference, also explicitly captured in the committee’s name, is to consider the report of the police minister on the security upgrades at the President’s residence in Nkandla. The committee was not set up to consider the report of the Public Protector, as this report had already been dealt with by the previous ad hoc committee in 2014.”
That committee was eventually boycotted by the opposition in protest at the ANC majority’s refusal to call Madonsela to discuss her findings. They have, in vain, tried to persuade the ruling party that the current committee should call Madonsela to explain why her findings differ from those of Nhleko, who has determined that Zuma does not need to reimburse the state because every item in the project was essential for security.
“It is neither practical nor sustainable that an institution should be called to respond before Parliament whenever a view is expressed regarding reports it released,” Sizani said.
“We note and agree with the views expressed by all political parties in the ad hoc committee following their eye-opening visit to Nkandla that the description of the upgrades as luxurious, opulent and comfortable does not correlate with the reality on the ground. …
It is such descriptions used by the Public Protector in her report which made MPs to observe that the descriptions of certain aspects of the upgrades were misrepresented.”
Since the visit however, some MPs have suggested in media reports that the poor state of the premises was exaggerated during the visit. For example, they were told that surveillance equipment had never worked though there was proof that it was in operation as late as last year.
Madonsela’s press conference also comes on the heels of Sunday press reports that she and Zuma had exchanged strongly-worded letters in the wake of Nhleko’s report.
Sizani said it was untrue that criticism of her office was vindictive and rejected suggestions that Parliament was denying it more funding to punish her for her findings on the Nkandla controversy.
“Such (an) allegation is baseless and sounds like political posturing.
“We appeal to the Public Protector to give Parliament the necessary space and respect to do its work and report to the public.”