Madonsela ‘depoliticising’ Nkandla process

FILE PICTURE: Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Picture: Michel Bega

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has vowed to depoliticise the report on the security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.

“I never wished to enter into a politicised environment,” Madonsela told reporters in Pretoria on Wednesday.

“My deal was initially with officials. It was… General Ramlakan from the department of defence who requested that he and his colleagues have sight of the report’s use of classified documents to ensure there were no security breaches.”

She said the arrangement changed when Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, at the close of the last meeting with security cluster ministers, asked if the report could rather be given to the ministers.

“I now regret acceding to that request,” Madonsela said.

She said the now-depoliticised way forward sought to take the process back to technical rather than political engagement.

Madonsela was speaking after the security cluster of ministers submitted a 28-page response to her provisional report on the security upgrade.

She received the submission from Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on behalf of the security cluster of ministers on Friday.

Madonsela said her team would now review the submission and would assess the reasonability of the security concerns.

Where considered reasonable, the report would be altered as she deemed fit.

“I will invite the ministers in the security cluster to nominate security experts from within government to meet me at my office and discuss with them the contended issues.

“I will thereafter apply my mind and make a decision,” she said.

However, the experts would not be allowed to see the report.

This process was envisaged to take no longer than two weeks.

If any issues remained unresolved, Madonsela said she would then discuss these with independent experts.

“The matter may well end here, assuming we are happy with the way things are integrated, and I might not need the step of using external security experts.”

Once the provisional report was ready it would be shared with concerned parties for comments within 10 days.

“Those outside the security cluster, except the president, will not get a copy of the report but will be invited to come and view relevant parts thereof at our offices,” Madonsela said.

“I hope this will remove any anxieties regarding the report and take care of all the genuine security concerns.”

She said she would release the report in a manner she deemed fit.

The provisional report could be ready in a month.

“If everything goes according to plan, we are looking at a month from now.”

The report on the R206 million upgrade of Zuma’s homestead in KwaZulu-Natal was given to the security cluster on November 1.

The cluster wanted more than five days to study the document but Madonsela declined the request.

The cluster then filed an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria on November 8 for more time to peruse the report before it was given to the affected parties.

The court postponed the matter to Friday.

On Thursday, the cluster withdrew the urgent application, saying it had already obtained — through the court process — the extra time it needed to study the report.

Madonsela on Wednesday said in hindsight things could have been handled differently.

“It did not sit well with me to read in newspapers that my office was ‘fighting’ with the security cluster with allegations and counter-allegations swinging in both directions in court papers.

“Such conduct is not healthy and certainly does not bode well for the principles that underpin the concept of co-operative governance,” she said.

Madonsela said she was saddened that the matter had landed up in court and she did not see it coming.

She said her office and government now had the task of rebuilding trust and putting the unfortunate court drama behind them.

“I have had good relationships with all these ministers. I have never had any altercations with them,” Madonsela said.

– Sapa

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