Durban - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has blasted a report by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko on Nkandla, saying it is unnecessary, has no legal basis and is riddled with mistakes.
Responding to a set of questions from The Mercury, Madonsela stood by her own report on President Jacob Zuma’s controversial rural homestead.
The “Secure in Comfort” report had found that Zuma had unduly benefited from the R246 million spent on non-security features at his home, and that he should pay back part of the money. Nhleko’s investigation cleared Zuma of any misconduct and said he should not have to pay back any of the money spent on the upgrades.
Madonsela said she would hold a press briefing in Pretoria on Monday to talk about the committee and the Nkandla saga.
“The (Nhleko) report was not necessary, it has no legal basis and has lots of mistakes,” she said in a written response to The Mercury.
She repeated that Zuma should take responsibility for the waste of taxpayers’ money, and that he should pay back part of the money.
“President Zuma is partially accountable and yes, the president should pay back some of the money,” said Madonsela.
She described her relationship with the ANC as “cordial”. This was despite accusations by ANC members of the parliamentary ad hoc committee on Nkandla, in a sitting in the legislature in Pietermaritzburg late last month, that she misled South Africa about the security upgrades. They said her report was untrue as Nkandla’s security was not up to standard. They stopped just short of saying she had lied.
Some ruling party MPs were even heard shouting: “Let her burn,” The ANC had reportedly accused her of being a “proxy of foreign forces and opposition parties”.
Madonsela said she was concerned that the public was being misled.
Although committee members had unanimously slammed the upgrade on Zuma’s house, saying it was not worth the money spent, the ruling party and opposition disagreed on whether Zuma should be held accountable.
ANC MPs said Public Works officials and contractors who were involved in the Nkandla project should take the fall and that Zuma was also short-changed.
Opposition parties had also called for Zuma, Madonsela and Zuma’s personal architect, Minenhle Makhanya, to appear before the committee, but the ANC deputy chief whip told The Mercury that it was unnecessary for Zuma and Madonsela to appear before the committee because it was not conducting an investigation. Makhanya could not appear because he was appearing in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on charges related to the matter.
Madonsela had also said that her exclusion from the committee probe would be legally challenged.
During a talk at Wits in Johannesburg on Thursday night, the public protector insisted that she should be afforded a chance to testify before the committee. Her office later issued a statement saying that, constitutionally, the committee should exhaust all sources of information that might shed light on the issues being deliberated upon.
Madonsela said she expected that Zuma, the Treasury and the SAPS would work together in determining how much the president should pay back.
“No minister was asked to make a determination or to advise the president because the implementation of this part of remedial action was always going to be a technical exercise,” read the statement.
The Sunday Times reported this week that Madonsela and Zuma had a spat over the appointment of Nhleko to carry out an investigation of the Nkandla upgrade. Madonsela accused Zuma of using a non-existent paragraph in her report as the basis to appoint Nhleko. Zuma in turn accused Madonsela of interfering with the committee’s work.
Criticising Nhleko’s involvement, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said: “The ANC cannot be the player and referee.” He said Nhleko was not independent because he was a presidential appointee.
Attempts to contact Nhleko’s spokesman, Musa Zondi, for comment were unsuccessful on Sunday as his cellphone was off.
The ad hoc committee
has made it clear that it is racing against time to conclude its final report before tabling in the House for adoption on Friday. Parliament had given the committee until August 7 to conclude its work.
The completion of the report is due to take place at the same time as Zuma is to appear before Parliament on Thursday to answer oral questions.
One of the questions in the order paper of Parliament is from the EFF, on when the president will pay back the money. This question has caused consternation among MPs and led to chaos on three occasions in Parliament, starting exactly a year ago.
Parliament has passed a rule that will allow its protection officers to forcibly eject rowdy MPs.
The approval of this rule last week was interpreted as a measure to counter the EFF on Thursday when Zuma would appear for his question-and-answer sessions with MPs.