‘Nkandla report not open for review’ – Madonsela

FILE PICTURE: Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Photo: Johann Hattingh

FILE PICTURE: Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Photo: Johann Hattingh

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said there was no legal basis for setting up an executive structure to review or to reinvestigate a matter handled by a Chapter 9 institution.

“It cannot be done with the Auditor-General, the Electoral Commission or the others. This doesn’t mean that the President or another institution affected by the Public Protector report may not seek advice in assessing a report of a Chapter 9 institution with a view to engage meaningfully with such a report,” Madonsela told reporters in Pretoria on Monday.

“In the case in point, the minister (police minister Nathi Nhleko) who exercises delegated authority at the pleasure of the President, who is the sole repository for executive authority, cannot account to Parliament on behalf of the president under the Executive Members Ethics Act. The proper process is for the president to evaluate whatever the minister says to him and go back to Parliament in terms of Section 3 of the Executive Members Ethics Act to give a full account regarding his intentions on the Public Protector report.”

Madonsela said in recent communication with Zuma, she had discovered that the head of state was under the wrong impression that the Public Protector’s report requested him to “engage” the police minister on the Nkandla saga.

“I would like to place it on record, as I did with the President on July 30 2015, that nowhere does the Public Protector advise the President to engage the minister of police with a view to determine a fair amount to be paid by him in respect of items identified in the report as not listed in the security list and not reasonably linked to security,” said Madonsela.

“I further place it on record, as I did with the President, that the appropriate paragraph (misinterpreted by Zuma) actually asks the President himself to make the determination with the help of Treasury and the South African Police Service.”

In March last year, the Public Protector found that Zuma had unduly benefited from security upgrades to his Nkandla home, which cost the taxpayer R246 million, and recommended he pay back a portion of the public funds used for the project.

Following his probe into the Nkandla upgrades, Nhleko said the cost for installation of security features amounted to R71 million. He said more than R20 million was paid to consultants and R135 million was paid for construction of military and police staff quarters and a clinic.

Nhleko’s much-awaited report, released in May, concluded that the pool, as well as a kraal, amphitheatre and visitors’ centre were all essential for the President’s security. According to Nhleko, Zuma does not have to repay the State a cent for the millions of rand used to effect upgrades at his private home.

In June, Nhleko said Zuma’s critics must prove that the upgrades were not inspired by security needs.

“There has been quite a lot of talk but I don’t think we understand the issues at a much closer range. Let’s talk on the basis of facts. If you say the visitors lounge is not a security feature, present evidence before me to prove that indeed it is not,” Nhleko said at the time.

“If you say the animal enclosure with the culvert and everything else was constructed but not influenced by security considerations, you have to present your work around that.”

On Monday, Madonsela said Zuma should have halted the escalation of the cost of state-funded upgrades to his home.

“My answer regarding whether the President should have done something to stop, or to inquire into further expenditure after the media indicated possible alleged irregularities in 2009 is that: Yes. The president should have done something,” Madonsela told reporters in Pretoria where she held an extraordinary media briefing following Sunday press reports of a tense exchange of letters with Zuma.

“At that time the cost estimate was R65 million. At that time, the President, by his own admission, was interacting with officials through his principal agent, Mr [Minenhle] Makhanya [architect] instead of official channels with ministers.”

Madonsela referred to a Constitutional Court finding which emphasised that there is an obligation for public officials to take action to prevent an irregularity once it has been brought to their attention.

Also on Monday, the office of ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said it was not true that the Public Protector had been the target of vicious attacks since she made adverse findings against Zuma, and accused her of political posturing.

“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,” Sizani’s office said.

“In our view such a claim is without foundation and thus unfortunate.”

Madonsela had earlier said 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.

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 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.”

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