Ministers defend Nkandla report scrutiny

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iol nws june 9 Dennis Dlomo Independent Newspapers State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele. File photo: Jeffrey Abrahams

Cape Town - Cabinet ministers tried to reclaim the public discourse on the Nkandla affair from Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Thursday.

 They contended that the president's security was their responsibility and required secrecy.

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele and his colleagues at police, defence, and public works responded to Madonsela's statement on Wednesday that she regretted consenting to their request to scrutinise her preliminary report on the R206 million improvements at Nkandla for security risks.

Madonsela said she would ask the ministers to nominate experts to meet her to discuss contested aspects of the report in a bid to depoliticise it.

Said Cwele: "At no stage did the cluster try to politicise the report. All that we are doing, we are exercising our constitutional mandate in terms of section 198 of the Constitution, which says national executive and Parliament have got the responsibility to uphold national security, including that of the head of state, the president.

"It is not optional, we are constitutionality obliged," he said.

Cwele said Cabinet would apply all laws on the statute books to the president's homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal, including the National Key Points Act and the Protection of State Information Act - the apartheid-era official secrets law.

He went on to defend the state's decision to classify the report of the government task team that probed reports of misspending at Nkandla by saying it could not "outsource" its responsibilities on national security.

Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence, which debated that report behind closed doors, last week in effect justified the use of public funds at Zuma's homestead.

Cwele and his colleagues hammered home the message that MPs found no evidence that the public works department paid for improvements to Zuma's private property and that security structures, necessitated by his status, were set up on adjacent state land.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said Zuma was the victim of a propaganda campaign suggesting he used taxpayers' money for his private home.

"We have seen these things being peddled, said time and time again, that the state built the houses for the president with R206 million, which is a lie.

"Those who do so follow the example of Goebbels, the propagandist of Hitler. No matter how often you repeat this lie, it is a lie. We have disaggregated this R200 million, where it went, and most of it went to the security features."

Madonsela told a media briefing on Wednesday that the government had tried to obstruct her investigation into the improvements at Nkandla in many ways, including accusing her of conducting parallel investigations.

On Friday, she received a 28-page submission from Mthethwa on behalf of the ministers in the security cluster stating their concerns on potential security risks posed by her provisional report.

Madonsela said she would amend the provisional report where she saw fit, but if she needed to consult on the ministerial objections, she would not talk to them, but to security experts nominated by the state.

This comes after the ministers took her to court to secure more time to study her report than the five days she had allowed. The court challenge marked a new low in Madonsela's increasingly fractious relationship with the government.

 

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