Cape Town -
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi has stopped just short of accusing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of releasing her report on Nkandla on the eve of the elections in order to hand opposition parties ammunition to use against the ANC.
Addressing a meeting of the SA Democratic Teachers Union in Khayelitsha on Friday, Nxesi said without the Nkandla issue opposition parties would have had no campaign.
“Opposition parties are not saying anything about their policy, they are talking about Nkandla. Nothing else,” Nxesi said.
“Where are their policies, where are their plans? If it weren’t for Nkandla they weren’t going to be able to campaign,” said Nxesi.
It was “very interesting” that a report, which it was claimed had taken two years to complete, had been released on the eve of the elections, said the minister, whose department conducted an internal probe into the Nkandla matter.
That report found evidence of price inflation and the violation of supply chain processes, but found that all the upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s residence were security-related and justified.
However, Madonsela found items like the swimming pool, cattle kraal, amphitheatre and visitors centre could not be justified on the basis of security requirements.
She found the president and his family had benefited improperly from these and that, given the first media reports of overspending at Nkandla had surfaced in 2009, he should have intervened to prevent the excessive expenditure.
Madonsela explained in her report that it was the recalcitrance of implicated government departments to supply her with the necessary information and make attempts to get her to halt the probe, among others, which had delayed the release of her report.
But Nxesi asked: “Why is it released right on the eve of the elections?”
He claimed Madonsela’s report on the Midvaal municipality, dealing with alleged wrongdoing by the DA administration, had been held back before the 2011 local government elections.
This is an allegation first made by Madonsela’s then deputy, which the Public Protector referred to Parliament for an investigation.
MPs on the justice committee subsequently dismissed the claims as “office politics”.
Nxesi also slammed Madonsela yesterday for making “a lot of noise prior to the release of the report”.
He was referring to a media interview in which she was reported to have said many would be disappointed by her report.
“It’s like a judge telling people they’re going to be disappointed but he’s going to release a report. After releasing a report, talking too much. Why not allow your report to talk for itself?” Nxesi said.
It was also “very interesting” that “some US something” had listed the Public Protector in the top 100 - a reference to an accolade from US-based Time magazine.
“That’s very interesting. That’s what we are told. But we are noting all this,” Nxesi said.
Last week ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete accused foreign networks of funding opposition campaigns in order to help topple the ANC.
Nxesi said the three reports on Nkandla - that of his department, the Public Protector and Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence - had come to similar conclusions.
“Prices were inflated there because people thought that if they are doing a project at the president’s place they can get away with murder.”
The ANC was taking corruption seriously, said Nxesi, but it was not only government officials who were involved. He cited the Competition Commission findings of massive price collusion in the construction of the Soccer World Cup stadiums as an example.
“These are private sector companies, mainly white dominated. The DA never raised a word about those,” Nxesi said.
“Comrades, corruption is killing us. It has demoralised honest public servants, it divides comrades against each other. People use money to buy votes, even in our branches, instead of evaluating the capacity of an individual and the quality of their work.”
He was pleased to say he was progressing in rooting out corruption in his department.
“We’ve been able to move against the corrupt elements, we have dismissed senior staff members and instigated court action to reclaim the monies which were wrongly obtained.
“We are saying to the criminals, you can run but you can’t hide.”