Johannesburg - The public protector's report on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson was being “processed”, the Presidency said on Monday.
“We urge that space be allowed for proper processing of the report and for the minister to be given the opportunity to respond to the President on the entire report. Speculation will not assist the process,” said spokesman Mac Maharaj.
He said the presidency has noted some media reports, including one alleging that Joemat-Pettersson returned earlier from Sweden at the request of the presidency in order to assist with plans for the president’s private wedding ceremony in 2009.
“The presidency is not aware of the said request,” he said.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has recommended that President Jacob Zuma should consider reprimanding Joemat-Pettersson for violating the executive ethics code.
Madonsela said the department's acting director-general should recover about R150 000 Joemat-Pettersson unlawfully incurred for return flights of her two children and their au pair from Sweden to South Africa in January 2010.
The minister travelled to Sweden in December 2009 on official business where she held meetings on matters relevant to her portfolio.
The trip was combined with a family holiday, which started at the end of the official trip on December 23.
The public protector also investigated whether the minister used public funds in occupying expensive accommodation at hotels while she was awaiting the allocation of her official residences in Cape Town and Pretoria.
The City Press reported that JoematPettersson claimed she flew back to South Africa urgently - at a R400 000 cost to the taxpayer - to help out with President Jacob Zuma’s wedding.
The newspaper reported that this was revealed in the protestor's final report into Joemat-Pettersson’s controversial business class flight with her two children and their au pair from Sweden to South Africa on January 1, 2010.
Titled Costly Moves, Madonsela’s report, revealed that Joemat-Pettersson and her former chief of staff, Bafedile Bopape, initially would not tell investigators why she had to return from Sweden urgently at the end of 2009.
All Joemat-Pettersson initially said was that she had been urgently summoned home by “an authorised official in the office of the presidency”.
During her interview with Madonsela’s office, Joemat-Pettersson admitted meeting Zuma on January 2 - the day after her return - at the Melrose Arch Hotel in Johannesburg.
Madonsela said no evidence of any emergency or crisis that warranted the minister’s early return was obtained or presented during the investigation.
But Madonsela noted that investigators in her office started asking more questions after they realised January 2 was a Saturday and Zuma married Tobeka Madiba at his Nkandla home just two days later.
They questioned Joemat-Pettersson again and she said the “circumstances” now warranted a more detailed response than her original, “without wishing to breach the relationship of trust with the presidency”.
Eventually she told investigators her early return related mainly to the fact that she was needed to assist dignitaries and VIP guests “with regard to the importation of prescribed goods that they required during their stay in South Africa at the time”.
“I was under pressure to expedite that matter,” she told Madonsela’s team.- Sapa