Johannesburg - Probing upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home formed part of the checks and balances of a constitutional democracy, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Friday.
“I have noted that many are still stuck in 'pre-Constitution thinking', where unique institutions, such as my office, that are neither courts nor tribunals, are not fully understood,” she said in a speech delivered at the University of Stellenbosch School of Public Leadership, according to notes supplied by her office.
Misunderstanding the checks and balances offered by constitutional institutions, such as the Public Protector's office, limited the extent to which they could help improve governance. She was speaking at a conference about ways to make national development planning work.
Madonsela cited the recent debate about her provisional report on the R206 million security upgrade of Zuma's private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal. She agreed that the power to decide on security matters belonged to Cabinet and Parliament.
“But the power to determine whether or not that power has been exercised in accordance with the law belongs to my office, other competent bodies, and ultimately the courts,” she said.
“That is the impact of the additional checks and balances that the framers of our Constitution added in order to reinforce our fledgling constitutional democracy.”
Madonsela told a media briefing on Wednesday that government had tried to obstruct her investigation into the improvements at Nkandla in many ways, including accusing her of conducting parallel investigations.
Last Friday, she received a 28-page submission from Police Minister Nathi 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. If she needed to consult on the ministerial objections, she would not talk to the ministers, but to security experts nominated by the state.
This was after the security cluster ministers took her to court to secure more time to study her report than the five days she had allowed.
On Thursday, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said it had not been Cabinet's intention 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,” he said.
“It is not optional, we are constitutionality obliged.”