ANC whip lashes out at Madonsela

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The Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, at a press briefing were she tabled her report about the upgrade in the private home of President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Masi Losi

Parliament - ANC chief whip Stone Sizani accused Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday of exceeding her mandate by demanding President Jacob Zuma respond to her findings of excessive state spending on his Nkandla homestead.

Sizani said Madonsela was obliged to submit her report to Parliament and suggested that by waiting for a presidential response she was flouting her accountability to the legislature.

"What if the president does not respond within the time frame given to him by the public protector? Does that prevent the public protector submitting her report to Parliament?" Sizani asked.

"She must table the report in Parliament," he added, but refused to say whether in that case, the ANC would want the legislature to tackle the matter before the May 7 elections.

Madonsela has, in line with the Executive Members' Ethics Act, given Zuma two weeks to respond to her report on refurbishments at his private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.

The 400-page report titled "Secure in Comfort" found that the president should pay back a portion of the R246 million in state funds that was spent at Nkandla but did not go towards improving security measures.

It was released on March 19, and in response the Democratic Alliance has asked National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu to recall Parliament from its pre-election recess and set up an ad hoc committee to consider impeaching the president.

Sisulu wrote to DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko on Tuesday to say he would consider it, but he also pointed out that Zuma had 14 days to comment on the report.

Sizani took aim at both the DA and Madonsela, accusing the opposition party of electioneering and the public protector of political posturing.

He referred to a remark by Madonsela indicating that she would be surprised if the ANC national executive committee did not discuss her report at its meeting this weekend.

And he accused her of showing disdain for both Parliament and the inter-ministerial task team that exonerated Zuma of any wrongdoing in its own, prior report on the Nkandla matter.

"She has overstepped the mark," he said.

"I'm not quite sure why a Chapter Nine institution thinks it is above Parliament."

Turning to the DA, Sizani said the party was "clutching at straws" to increase its voter support ahead of the elections.

Sizani said the DA had hoped that Madonsela would find that Zuma had misled Parliament when he said that he, and not the State, had built his home in the KwaZulu-Natal hamlet.

He added: "It would be very clumsy for Parliament to entertain an impeachment motion on the basis of one political party's skewed interpretation of the public protector's report."

Madonsela found that Zuma's statement that "Nkandla has been paid for by the Zuma family" was not true but said she accepted that he was referring only to his family dwellings, and had therefore made a "bona fide mistake".

However, she said he should have questioned the scale and costs of the project, and added that Zuma and his family benefited from a visitors' centre, a cattle kraal and chicken run, a swimming pool and an amphitheatre built with state funds.

Her report also found that Zuma had flouted the law by not discharging his responsibility as a beneficiary of public privileges and a guardian of state resources.

It has brought to a head a long-running dispute between Madonsela and the ruling party about her office's line of accounting.

The ANC claims she over-estimates the extent of her independence, while Madonsela has repeatedly asked for the Executive Members' Ethics Act to be amended to address an omission that has now become pertinent.

The act holds that in case of a breach by a member of the executive, the president must submit the report of the public protector to Parliament together with his own report on any action to be taken.

It does not say explicitly what should happen if the president himself is found in breach of the law.

 

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