Nathi Mthethwa lambasts media for ‘still playing dumb’ on Nkandla

2013-11-24 06:00

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has accused the media of “playing dumb” by deliberately misinforming the public when reporting about the state’s spending on the security of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence.

Mthethwa spoke to City Press on Friday after newspapers openly defied ministers in the security cluster by publishing Nkandla pictures despite pleas by ministers that they desist from doing so.

He lambasted the media for “misinterpreting” what ministers in the security cluster had said regarding publishing pictures with security features and this being in breach of security laws.

“The media is playing dumb when reporting that we are saying the house of the president should not be photographed, which is not something that is misunderstood by the media. It is something that is done deliberately to misinform the public,” said Mthethwa.

He said the public were still in the dark about what happened in Nkandla because the media told “lies” that Zuma used taxpayers’ money to build his homestead.

“The media is very intelligent. The media decide to misinform the public. Now if it misinforms the public for its own narrow ends there’s nothing we can do because we said what happened in Nkandla. There’s nothing which the public will learn if the public is being misinformed,” said Mthethwa.

He claimed the media had not widely reported the ministers’ announcement that “no public funds were used to build Zuma’s homes in Nkandla”.

“The issue here is how you report matters, sometimes to make a point against government. That’s where the problem is. Firstly, the media issue here which was emphasised to [the media] was that no public funds built the house of the president and you did not report that because in the media you have been telling people the wrong thing that R206 million was used by the president for his own personal interest,” said Mthethwa.

He was unhappy that the media did not report on the amounts spent on security, despite being told how much was spent on security features in Nkandla.

“This money went to the security features which were both at the presidential residence and I said how much of that went to the operational needs of the security cluster but you didn’t carry it. The public is being misinformed even when we come out. We thought we were telling the media what actually is the case,” said Mthethwa.

He also denied that the security cluster had changed tack by mainly focusing on concerns surrounding the security of the president and the state, instead of focusing on unethical behaviour and impropriety related to the excessive use of public funds in Nkandla.

“The media told the public lies that R206 million was taken by the president and then you say we have changed [the focus of the investigation]. You have told people lies.

“We’ve not changed anything. The media misinformed the public about what happened in Nkandla before the minister of public works set up a task team to investigate how the public funds were used and when the investigation was done, we then broke up the spending and we came back and informed the public,” said Mthethwa, reiterating that the issue being probed was one of how public funds were used, not corruption.

He lashed the media for pretending to be ignorant of the facts surrounding Nkandla by suggesting that the ministers had barred the media from publishing pictures of Nkandla.

“We’re saying there’s no law which says that people shouldn’t splash pictures. I said we are requesting nicely that the media desist from that because if they decide to take a picture of 10 Downing or the White House, you know what it looks like, but you don’t know what the security features of that house are.

“The media has splashed out the pictures of the house of the president since 2011 and we’ve never said anything. But when the media starts showing security features and they are even informing the public about that, to tell you the truth, it is never been done,” said Mthethwa.

He said anyone who continued to publish pictures of Nkandla with details of security features was endangering the lives of people.

“Contrasting what we say with other presidential houses, we said precisely that what we’ve seen of 10 Downing Street and the White House has no security features or security detail precisely because in terms of security you should see what security people want you to see. You can’t be seeing everything because if you do that you’re putting everybody in harm’s way,” said Mthethwa.

This week the ministers expressed concern about the excessive spending on the security upgrades and promised that those who deviated from tender rules would be dealt with.

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