14/07/2011. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela briefs the media on her investigation into complaints and allegations of maladministration, improper and unlawful conduct by the Department of Public Works and the South African Police Service relating to the lease of office accommodation in Durban. Picture: Masi Losi


Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela will be a happy woman when she finally releases her report on Wednesday, 28 months after she began her probe into upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s private home.

“With all investigations, my team and I are happy to finalise and part ways with the investigation. The same applies to this one,” Madonsela said on Saturday, in an SMS response to Independent Newspapers questions.

Several extraordinary security measures have been put in place, including a media “lock-up” room and searches on journalists attending the press conference in Pretoria, to ensure none of the report’s contents are leaked ahead of Madonsela’s official briefing.

“The media lock up is an information measure to enhance understanding of the bulky report, taking into account that Friday’s a holiday. It’s not a response to any security concerns. The lock up will be followed by my address at an open session,” Madonsela said.

While she was unable to say how much the marathon probe had cost the taxpayer, Madonsela said: “We suspect… that government spent far more in legal costs in relation to all its respondents.”

A list of stringent etiquette outlines the do’s and don’ts ahead of the briefing, which include that:

* After going through a metal detector, journalists will be searched.

* No laptops, cellphones or any other information-transmitting devices will be allowed.

* Journalists will not be free to leave the lock-up room until the lock-up time has lapsed.

* They will also be barred from transmitting or disclosing, by any means, to anyone outside the lock-up room, the contents of the report and fact sheets until the embargo is lifted.

* Photographers and videographers will not get the report and fact sheets.

* Failure to abide by the rules will lead to expulsion from the lock-up and the subsequent briefing, and a possible ban on the part of the offenders and the media houses they represent from covering future media briefings of the public protector.

Madonsela’s spokesman Oupa Segalwe said the investigation that started in December 2011 only involved two staff members who assisted the public protector “all at different phases of the investigation”.

He would not say how much the probe had cost the taxpayer.

Asked if the recommendations of the public protector’s findings were binding and if there were any sanctions that the government should undertake from it, Segalwe said: “A finding of the public protector is a ruling. Remedial action should be implemented unless, on review, a court says the public protector was unreasonable or irrational,” he said.

But he would not comment on the fact that several people against whom she had made adverse findings had made it into the list of ANC MP candidates.

They include ex-police chief Bheki Cele, former minister Dina Pule and Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. “That’s for the ANC and Parliament,” Segalwe said.

Sunday Independent