Johannesburg - Police commissioner Riah Phiyega lied when she described the swimming pool at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence as a “fire pool” and action should be taken against her.
This is according to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe who responded on Thursday to Wednesday’s release of the public protector’s report into the Nkandla saga.
In her report Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that there was no basis for “accepting as security measures the kraal, chicken run, visitor’s centre, amphitheatre and swimming pool”.
On Thursday morning Mantashe said: “Officials who have gone public with inaccurate information must be censored, like the information and description of the swimming pool as the fire pool, and the details given to explain this matter constitute a misrepresentation of facts. The minister of police is expected to take appropriate action in this regard.”
In December Phiyega explained at a press conference that those who grew up in rural areas knew “there is no fire extinguishers or fire brigades”. She said the “best we know is to take a bucket, dip it in water and throw it on the fire”.
The “fire pool” was being used as a swimming pool but doubled up as a fire-fighting device, she was reported as saying at the time. She was unavailable for comment on Thursday.
Mantashe said the ANC was relieved the public protector report was “finally” released, but expressed concern over the timing, so close to the May 7 elections.
Mantashe said the timing was of “concern” as some opposition parties now believed they had “some ammunition” to have something to talk about because they would not have anything else to talk about.
“The call by some for an impeachment for the president is a premeditated position that has nothing to do with the report of the public protector. Some parties came to that conclusion, and maintained that position, irrespective of what the public protector said,” he added.
The DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters are expected to open criminal cases today with the SAPS relating to the Nkandla saga.
On Wednesday the report, “Secure in Comfort”, into the R215 million taxpayer-funded upgrades at Nkandla found Zuma had benefited from the upgrades, which ballooned amid a series of systemic failures of adhering to state policies and prescripts.
Madonsela found Zuma should repay at least some of the costs, particularly for the cattle kraal and culvert, chicken run, swimming pool and visitors’ centre, which had not been included in the official security assessments done in 2009 and 2010.
Mantashe said those guilty of violations – including Zuma – must be pursued, and that the state must recover costs following probes, by competent state institutions, into who had abused state funds.
“All those found in violation, that includes the president. When we say all, we mean all, we don’t exclude anyone. But let me emphasise the fact that (we mean) people found in violation by the report, not in discussion in the public,” he said.
However, in response to a question of whether Zuma would be let off the hook, Mantashe said the report was clear on the line ministries and their omissions and failures: “Let’s use the report, but not do witch hunting. What is important to us is who abdicated responsibility,” Mantashe said.
He said the ANC election manifesto highlighted the need to step up the fight against corruption – and, in reference to the manifesto’s proposed central tender board, he added: “If there was a centralised body, maybe attention would have been paid to (the cost escalations).”
He highlighted common findings between Madonsela’s report and that of the public works task team which was declassified in the midst of the public outcry in December.
The Mail & Guardian had published a leaked draft report which found Zuma was liable for at least some of the costs.
The commonalties included:
Given a probe by the Special Investigating Unit, Mantashe said cases had been referred to the prosecution authorities – although this was not linked to the public protector’s report.
“The ANC condemns the mischievous and downright false assertions by political pundits and opposition political parties that the ANC intends to ignore the public protector’s report or undermine the validity of her findings. We are asking everyone to subject the report to objective assessment and make an informed judgement about it.”