New threat for Thuli Madonsela

2013-11-17 10:00

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State attorney’s office used to scare her off Nkandla probe

Security cluster ministers used the state attorney’s office to dissuade Public Protector Thuli Madonsela from investigating the R206?million spent on President Jacob Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla.

Acting state law attorney Tshifhatuwo Tshivhase became a battering ram in the minister’s botched legal tussle with Madonsela this week when he unsuccessfully tried to have her disbarred from the Bar Council of South Africa?–?even though she is not a member of the legal body.

The legal battle between Madonsela and ministers in the justice crime prevention and security cluster, through which Nathi Mthethwa, Siyabonga Cwele, Thulas Nxesi and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula tried to interdict the release of her provisional report, ended with ministers seemingly conceding defeat and abandoning their court action.

But court documents, filed this week, reveal how Tshivhase attempted to bulldoze Madonsela against proceeding with her probe.

He argued that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the auditor-general had the “competency” to investigate and act against any criminality that allegedly occurred in the Nkandla splurge.

In a letter to Madonsela on April 24, in response to her requesting more information on the Nkandla upgrade, Tshivhase told the Public Protector that the ministers “have already investigated the (Nkandla) matter” and sent a “draft proclamation” to Zuma for him to consider and sign to authorise the SIU to investigate. However, more than six months later, the draft proclamation has yet to reach the SIU.

Neither the security cluster nor the Presidency has given any reasons why the proclamation has not been signed.

SIU head, advocate Vas Soni, this week said his office was not investigating Nkandla because it had not received a proclamation instructing it to do so.

The auditor-general’s office, which has previously declined the security cluster’s request to investigate Nkandla, yesterday told City Press it still believed that the Public Protector’s office would be better placed to investigate the spending.

Auditor-general (AG) spokesperson Africa Boso said: “We’re not investigating the Nkandla expenditure at this stage. We haven’t heard anything formal apart from the request from public works which was declined. If the request came to us we would look at it”.

This is despite the security cluster and Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence this week declaring that the AG and the SIU would investigate the matter.

By late yesterday, presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj had yet to respond to questions on whether Zuma had received the draft proclamation and why it had taken more than six months to sign it off.

In his April letter, Tshivhase lambasted Madonsela for being too slow to start her Nkandla probe after the first complaint was lodged unlike the ministers who had formed a task team to investigate the spending.

“According to our clients (the ministers), you did not commence an investigation immediately upon receiving the first complaint. This was apparently due to capacity constraints. We mention these because our clients, upon becoming aware of the extent of the upgrade to the President’s residence, acted immediately and decisively.

“Our clients, therefore, propose that they continue to brief you on the matter and that they continue to update you on the investigation, but that you hold your investigation in abeyance until the processes embarked upon have been completed,” wrote Tshivhase.

It was this letter that prompted Madonsela to tell the North Gauteng High Court in her opposing affidavit this week that, with the help of Tshivhase, the ministers had “obstructed” her investigation.

Tshivhase reacted with shock to Madonsela’s accusations that he helped the minister obstruct her probe and “humbly” asked the court to report her to the Bar Council with the purpose to disbar her as a lawyer.

Oupa Segalwe, spokesperson for the Public Protector, said Tshivhase’s complaint to the court “was never going to work” because Madonsela was not a member of the bar.

“That complaint to the court by Mr Tshivhase has died with the security cluster abandoning the interdict this week. No one is pursuing it.

“The Public Protector has reiterated that she and her office will not be intimidated in any way from completing her investigation,” said Segalwe.

In a special report by the task team set up by public works minister Thulas Nxesi, Cabinet has been blamed for not setting a limit on spending on upgrades for sitting or former presidents and their deputies.

“The decision of Cabinet (23 August 2003) and the policy does not place any limit on the amount to be spent on security upgrades to the residence of a sitting president or deputy president as well as former presidents and deputy presidents,” says the report, released by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence this week.

The DA, which wants the report publicly released, has labelled it a “whitewash” because it did not investigate how much Zuma knew about the upgrades.

Among a host of reasons it used to justify the spending?–?including the fear of crime, political violence, rapes, earthquakes and the safety to Zuma’s family?–?the report also stated that there were no guidelines to just how much government could spend when upgrading a president’s home security.

The people of Nkandla say?...

Senzo Mkhize (24) from Nxamalala believes that President Jacob Zuma should be allowed to stay in office even if he was implicated in wrongdoing in the Public Protector’s report into the R206 million spent on security at his private home.

Says Mkhize: “We need to know what is in that report because there are possibilities that the taxpayer’s money was used to revamp the president’s home. And if the report reveals that our money was used, he needs to pay it back. I don’t think he should be removed from office but he would have to pay the money.”

Mkhize says the release of the report could influence how he votes.

Nomusa Mkhize (27) from Mdimela isn’t sure that the report will influence how she will vote. She has not yet registered.

“I have not registered to vote. Whatever is in the report might or might not influence my voting,’ says Mkhize.

Either way, she believes that the public had a right to know what taxpayers’ money was spent on.

“We have a right to know what is in that report. If he used our money he should pay back every cent. This is what government does to ordinary citizens, so the same should apply to him. Everyone make mistakes, we shouldn’t remove him from office because he is helpful in some instances.”

Bonisiwe Sikhakhane (44) from Mdimela says that no matter what the report says, Zuma should be left alone.

“It doesn’t matter what is in that report, it shouldn’t be made public. It is the president’s life. We have no business with it.

“Even if he used our money, who cares? He should remain in the office because he is a good man. He is the president, R200 million is nothing to ensure his safety.”

Sikhakhane says that its contents will not influence how she will vote.

“Yes I am registered and my voting won’t be affected by what is in that report. My vote is my secret.”

Thembinkosi Zulu (52) of Ezindlozini says he believes his tax rands are being spent well and that Zuma had every right to have the estate extended and the security upgrade done.

“The report should be given to the president. It doesn’t affect us. I pay tax to help people and the president is one of those people. He shouldn’t be fired, we love him and he is our president. R200 million is nothing if we know his life is not at risk. I’ve registered to vote and the report won’t make any difference. Who one will vote for, should remain one’s secret.”

Sduduzo Phakathi (22) from Nxamalala has no identity document and hasn’t registered because of this. He still wants to know what’s in the report.

“We have to know what’s in that report. We have a right to know what is happening in our country. If he is found to have taken a cent from the taxpayers, he should repay it. We don’t pay tax for him to revamp his house.

“R200 million is a lot of money but if he used his money, we don’t really care, the problem would be if he used our money. I have not registered, I don’t have an ID. I will decide who I vote for if I get an ID. Maybe it will have an influence on my voting.”

Sthabile Magwaza (20) from Mdimela believes that it’s wrong for Zuma to live the high life while residents are battling for water and electricity.

“It is important to know whose money was used. Already we have doubts about him. To clear his name the report should be made public. Maybe he should not be removed but he should pay every cent. I don’t think it is right to spend R200 million for his house, we need water and electricity but we don’t have that while the president is living a flashy life, he should put us first.”

However, the contents of the report wouldn’t influence her vote, she said.

Kwanele Magwaza (20) from Mdimela says the security upgrade was justified.

“I think we have a right to know although it should be a priority right now. I don’t think he should pay the money though, it won’t change anything. No, you can’t just fire someone for a silly mistake they’ve made, give him a warning rather.’

‘I think it is right that R200 million was used to upgrade his security because his safety is important.’

Magwaza will register in the next round.

Zandile Ngubane (28) from Nxamalala says that if Zuma is found to be corrupt, she won’t vote for his party.

“His private life should be respected, but if the report is finally released and it shows that he used our money to upgrade his house security, he should be forced to pay every cent. We’ve also been made to pay money back if we are found to have robbed the government as ordinary people. This mistake can be rectified by recouping the money, no need to remove him from office. If it is his money, R200 million is fine but not with taxpayer’s money then it is wrong.”

Ngubane is not sure if she is registered.

– Paddy Harper

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