Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's failure to meet the deadline and respond to the public protector's Nkandla report demonstrates the urgent need to fix the existing code of ethics for the national and provincial cabinets, the Ethics Institute of SA (EthicsSA) said on Monday.
“The code of ethics itself is a perfectly good one, except that it makes no provision for the process to be followed when the alleged transgressor is the president himself,” EthicsSA CEO Professor Deon Rossouw said.
“It's a well-established legal and moral principle that nobody can be [the] judge in his own case. This is something that must be remedied urgently by Parliament to prevent a replay of the current situation.”
The problem was that the code made no provision for the procedure to be followed if the president was the alleged transgressor, and it was not clear if it even covered the president.
“In other words, the code is not clear about how transgressions by the president should be handled, something that the government set out to rectify through an amendment. A draft amendment was published in 2011, but it has not yet been enacted,” said Rossouw.
“This amendment must be fast-tracked to rectify this serious flaw, and prevent future stalemates such as we are now experiencing.
Section 96 of the Constitution mandates that a code of ethics for Cabinet ministers and their deputies be implemented. Parliament passed the Executive Members' Ethics Act, which came into effect in October 1998, requiring the president to promulgate a code of ethics for Cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and MECs.
The act broadly outlines the provisions of the code, and nominates the Public Protector to investigate complaints against the executive and furnish reports to the president in cases against Cabinet members, their deputies, or premiers and MECs.
Rossouw said the president had promulgated an executive code of ethics in the Government Gazette in July 2000.
“However, this document's definitions no longer make it clear that the code covers the president. It merely refers to 'cabinet members' without specifically including the president,” said Rossouw.
In a report released in March, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found Zuma and his family had unduly benefited from the R246 million security upgrades to his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma declined to respond to Madonsela's report in full within the required fortnight. Instead he said he would wait for the Special Investigating Unit's findings on the matter. The SIU confirmed recently that its final report had been delayed.
Zuma had undertaken to hand National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete a comprehensive report on the outcome of three separate investigations into state spending on his home in mid-July.
However, presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said Zuma needed more information before responding to findings about his home.
On July 5, the African National Congress Chief Whip's office said Zuma had received the provisional SIU report and would provide Mbete with a final and comprehensive response within 30 days. - Sapa