Durban - KNIVES are out for Public Protector Thuli Madonsela as a group of KwaZulu-Natal lawyers are preparing to challenge her investigation and findings into the upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.
On Wednesday the group of lawyers – some with connections to the ANC and Zuma – announced they were preparing court papers which should be filed within a week as they want Madonsela’s Nkandla report reviewed by a court.
They want the courts to nullify the report and also order her to restart the investigation.
Madonsela’s investigation found, among other things, that Zuma and his family unduly benefited from non-security upgrades at his home, which included a swimming pool, a kraal and a chicken run.
But the group of lawyers say the report is full of flaws, while also complaining that it is “wrong for the public protector to act as investigator, prosecutor and judge in the whole process”.
Madonsela said on Wednesday she was shocked and surprised by these utterances.
Leading the charge against her is Durban lawyer Comfort Ngidi, a well-known supporter of Zuma. Speaking to the Daily News on Wednesday, Ngidi stressed the action had nothing to do with the ANC or the president.
“We are not doing it (challenging the report) on behalf of anyone. We are just a group of lawyers who studied the report and felt it could not go unchallenged,” he said.
Other legal minds involved include Ashin Singh, Solomuzi Mdledle, and Mondli Qulo.
Ngidi said the manner in which the public protector operated was inconsistent with the constitution.
Asked why he and his colleagues had never spoken out before, Ngidi said they had not applied their minds to other cases.
“Does it mean that because we have not spoken out before we should keep quiet, even when we see something is wrong?” he asked.
Ngidi said there were many flaws in the public protector’s investigation, including the use of untested evidence.
“Just look at the report. Some of the evidence she relied on (came from) websites.
“She has taken a short cut and we are saying this is wrong, because you can’t reach a conclusion based on rumours, because if the law worked that way, Oscar Pistorius would be in jail by now.”
Ngidi also said their challenge would be on the process followed, which he said went against the spirit of ensuring individuals were subjected to fair trials.
Madonsela’s office reacted with shock to these statements on Wednesday.
The office maintained that all evidence used in the Nkandla investigation had been tested and that the public protector was empowered by the constitution to not only investigate any conduct in state affairs, but to also report on that conduct and take remedial action.
“The public protector is shocked and surprised that it is lawyers who are saying all these things, unless they are doing it for headline-grabbing.
“The public protector is an inquisitorial structure like a commission of inquiry and operates like a civil court. This has always been the case since the days of advocate Selby Baqwa as public protector,” said spokesman Oupa Segalwe.