Cape Town - The response to a report on President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home was a good constitutional barometer, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Thursday.
“There is nothing wrong with that particular investigation per se because I think it became a barometer of where we are in understanding constitutional democracy,” she told reporters in Cape Town.
She labelled as “unfortunate” the noise around her investigation into spending on the KwaZulu-Natal home.
“In this part of the world, again, the notion of administrative scrutiny is new.”
She said the role of a public protector was only invented 204 years ago in Sweden and less than 50 years ago in Africa, starting in Tanzania.
“We put these nice things in the Constitution, but when the import of the words strike us, we often battle with the wording, not because we are bad people but because we were never confronted with it before.”
She said she was glad the “debacle” had quietened down and was proceeding with her work of investigating, supporting the role of Parliamentary oversight in the process.
Asked whether an ad hoc committee on the Nkandla controversy would summon her, Madonsela refused to commit an answer.
“I cannot speculate whether Parliament would invite me or not,” she said.
On Tuesday, the ad hoc committee unanimously named ANC MP Cedric Frolick as its chairman amid calls from the opposition that it should summon Zuma.
The charge was led by Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane who asked Frolick to confirm that the committee had the power of subpoena and said, if so, that it should at its next meeting agree on whom it would call to appear before it.
He was backed by Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.
However, the African National Congress and Frolick were firm that it was premature to consider calling anybody before it had begun deliberating on several reports on the R246 million Nkandla project, and Zuma's submission to Parliament last month in response to those.
In March, Madonsela found that Zuma and his family had unduly benefited from the R246 million upgrades made to his private Nkandla home.
She said government had built a visitors' centre, cattle kraal and chicken run, a swimming pool, and amphitheatre for Zuma.
She recommended he pay back some of the money that went into the upgrades.
Malema and Maimane, whose parties have heatedly defended Madonsela against slurs from the ANC in recent weeks, said they wanted her to appear before the committee.
The opposition has feared that Madonsela's report would be downplayed in the committee's deliberations, and won assurances from the ANC last week that it would be included in its terms of reference.