Tebogo Monama and Lebogang Seale
SENIOR government ministers yesterday defended President Jacob Zuma following the release of the damning Nkandla report.
At a briefing in Pretoria, Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe said that, despite Madonsela’s findings that Zuma had improperly benefited from the R215 million project in the name of security, the government maintained that all renovations at his private home had been related to security and that no public funds had been used.
This came as the DA moved to impeach Zuma while other opposition parties called for criminal charges to be laid against government officials implicated in the report.
“The private house of the president was built by the president and his family.
“The retaining wall, cattle kraal and culvert, fire pool and water reservoir, accommodation for security personnel and visitors’ waiting area are all essential security features which ensure physical security and effective operation of security equipment,” Radebe said.
He said Zuma had started building the home in 2008 and was paying a bond. Zuma became president in 2009.
Radebe said the government was already taking action to recover money that might have been wasted in the project.
The cost for the renovations has since ballooned to R215 million from the initial budget of R27m.
“The Department of Public Works has finalised the cost of apportionment of the project for recovery of funds from the SAPS and the Department of Defence.”
The Department of Defence had set up a board of inquiry to investigate any irregularities that might have been committed during this project, Radebe said.
He said Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and their defence counterpart, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who hadbeen implicated in Madonsela’s report, would not be fired or resign until Zuma had pronounced on the issue.
According to Madonsela’s report, Zuma unduly benefited from the Nkandla upgrades.
Rejecting what seems to be Zuma’s “I saw nothing or heard nothing” approach to the Nkandla saga, Madonsela said that he should have been circumspect.
Madonsela also complained her staff had been intimidated by interference from the ministers during the investigation.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said she should develop a thick skin.
Radebe said the government would set up a team to read the report and formulate a full response.
Zuma had made a proclamation that the Special Investigating Unit should investigate the Nkandla upgrades, he added.
He said the investigation was at an advanced stage and the report was expected soon.
“This report will form a basis for disciplinary action and/or criminal charges against implicated individuals. The report will be forwarded to the National Prosecuting Authority for prosecutorial consideration.”