Pretoria - The probe into upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home had no political motives, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Wednesday.
“There is nothing political about the investigation. All I have done as an ombudsman is to discharge my responsibility,” she said in Pretoria after releasing her report on the probe.
“It is about public accountability. Government created that need for public accountability. I have done nothing more than discharging my responsibility.”
Madonsela said she did not fear for her life.
“What I like about being South African is that people disagree with you robustly but we haven't become one of those democracies where people disappear,” she said.
“Surely if anybody wanted to harm me, they would have harmed me before I concluded the investigation. I don't think our people are that mean-spirited.”
Madonsela's report revealed that Zuma gave the nod for all upgrades at his Nkandla home. It also said Zuma and his family unduly benefited from the upgrades.
“It is common cause that in the name of security, government built for the president and his family in his private 1/8home 3/8, a visitors centre, cattle kraal and chicken run, swimming pool, and amphitheatre among others,” she said.
“The president and his family clearly benefited from this.”
In November, Zuma told Parliament his residence in Nkandla was paid for by the Zuma family.
“I took the decision to expand my home and I built my home with more rondavels, more than once. And I fenced my home. And I engaged the bank and I'm still paying a bond on my first phase of my home,” he said at the time.
“My residence in Nkandla has been paid for by the Zuma family. All the buildings and every room we use in that residence, was built by ourselves as family and not by government.”
Zuma told Parliament he took exception to accusations that government money was spent for his benefit.
“I have never asked government to build a home for me, and it has not done so. Government did not build a home for me,” he said.
“It is unfair, and I don't want to use harsher words because you believe that people like me can't build a home.”
Madonsela said Zuma had not misled Parliament when he said his family had built its own houses and the state had not built any for them or benefited them.
“I have accepted the evidence that he addressed Parliament in good faith and was not thinking about the visitors centre, but his family dwelling, when he made the statement,” she said.
“It appears to have been a bona fide mistake and I am accordingly unable to find that his conduct was in violation of ... the executive ethics code.”
The public protector has been criticised by the African National Congress for her handling of the probe, with the party's secretary general Gwede Mantashe accusing her of trying to “muddy the waters in the election campaign”.
Madonsela was unfazed by the criticism.
“They have harmed my reputation by saying all sorts of things but South African people are discerning. People have been listening to what is being said and applying their mind,” she said.
“What we have learnt during this investigation is that people want public accountability. Despite the maladministration and shenanigans, a lot has happened that show that there is respect for the rule of law in this country.”
Madonsela said the excessive amount spent by government in the Nkandla upgrades was unconscionable.
“The expenditure incurred by the state, including buildings and other items installed by the DPW (department of public works), many of which went beyond what was reasonably required for the president's security was unconscionable, excessive and caused a misappropriation of public funds,” she said.
“The failure to spend state funds prudently is a contravention of section 195 of the Constitution and sections of the Public Finance Management Act.”
She found that critical service delivery programmes were sacrificed and money was diverted towards upgrades to Zuma's homestead.
“Funds were reallocated from the inner city regeneration project and the dolomite risk management programme of the department of public works,” Mandonsela said in her voluminous report.
“Due to lack of proper demand management and planning, service delivery programmes of the department of public works were negatively affected.”
Madonsela said the conduct of the department of public works was in violation of Section 237 of the Constitution and the Batho Pele White Paper.
She recommended that Zuma pay back a percentage of the upgrades.
“The president is to take steps with the assistance of the National Treasury and the SA Police Service to determine the reasonable cost of the measures implemented by the DPW at his private residence that do not relate to security,” she said in her report.
“(Zuma is to) pay a reasonable percentage of the cost of the measures”.
Madonsela said the amount to be paid back should be based on the cost of the installation of some or all of the items that were not accepted as security measures.
She also said Zuma must report to the National Assembly “on his comments and actions on this report” within 14 days.