‘Fearless’ Thuli Madonsela won’t show revised Nkandla report to ministers

2013-11-20 13:56

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela doesn’t fear losing her job and has never contemplated quitting as a result of the spat between her and ministers in the security cluster, which ended up in the courts.

Madonsela has announced that she would not be giving the ministers another chance to look at her revised report and that the final report will be made public by early next year.

Madonsela addressed the media in Pretoria this morning regarding ministers’ attempt at obtaining a court interdict against the release of the interim report to affected parties two weeks ago, which she described as “unprecedented” and “unhealthy” for relations between her office and organs of state.

She said she never anticipated that ministers would haul her before court and demand the court gives them powers which they did not have: to scrutinise her findings of the investigation into the R206 million upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.

“Call me naive, as one presumably sophisticated member of Parliament has already done, but I never anticipated what happened. The events that unfolded after November 1 2013 – after I shared my provisional report with security cluster ministers regarding the security upgrades at the President’s private residence in Nkandla – are unprecedented.

“I am sure many will concur that such conduct is not healthy and certainly does not bode well for the principles that underpin the concept of cooperative governance,” said Madonsela.

Despite tacit threats from ministers that they may go back to court if Madonsela does not incorporate their concerns regarding concerns on Zuma’s security, Madonsela said she would not be giving ministers her revised report.

She said it was a “mistake” in the first place that she conceded to giving ministers the provisional report prior to it being released to affected and implicated parties.

“I’m saddened by the fact that the matter ended up in court and inevitably took an adversarial turn,” said Madonsela, adding that she now wanted to rebuild the trust between her and the ministers.

“I believe our common commitment to the constitutional values that include transparency, public accountability and the rule of law will help us put the unfortunate court drama behind us.

“I believe both government and my office are committed to building public trust, particularly in the current climate of a huge public trust deficit,” said Madonsela.

Even though the Executive Members’ Ethics Act and the Public Protector Act give her powers to authorise subpoenas, search and seize operations and issue contempt orders, Madonsela said she preferred exercising a “soft power” approach when dealing with organs of state.

“The Executive Members’ Ethics Act also gives me unfettered power to investigate and report to the president as I deem fit.

“It is worth noting that the ministers in question did not and have since then never cited any constitutional or statutory provision that give them the rights they claimed in court papers,” said Madonsela, adding that state departments had a constitutional responsibility to help her office live up to its constitutional mandate of investigating any wrongdoing by government, without any hindrances.

Despite Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence recommendation last week that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Auditor-General (AG) investigate, Madonsela said conducting another probe into Nkandla would be a “waste” of taxpayers’ money.

She reiterated that neither the SIU nor the AG were investigating Nkandla and that despite the first news reports about the department of public works’ exorbitant spending on upgrading Nkandla were published as early as 2009, not a single department or organ of state was investigating the expenditure when she started pursuing it in 2011 after a complaint by a member of the public was lodged with her office.

“When the security cluster ministers insisted on starting new investigations by the [AG] and the SIU, I advised that this may be a waste of money given that our investigation was at the time 90% complete.

“My office gave a similar response to the state attorney when he wrote to me on April 24 2013, outlining a way forward that entailed holding our investigation in abeyance while investigations by the [AG] and the SIU, both still to be commissioned, commence and conclude.

“I want to place on record that as is customary and in line with our bilateral agreements, the [AG] and the SIU were approached early in our investigation to ascertain their involvement if any. It is a fact that both the [AG] and the SIU had not commenced any investigations when we started this investigation,” said Madonsela.

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