Public Protector: KZN lawyers interfering with my independence

2014-10-11 12:23

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A group of lawyers and educators from KwaZulu-Natal calling for the removal of the Public Protector and complaining about her Nkandla report are interfering with her independence, Thuli Madonsela’s office has said.

“The Public Protector is of the view that their request to the Speaker amounts to interference with her independence,” spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said today.

“Her functional and decisional independence is similar to that of the judiciary and as such anyone who has a problem with her decisions has to take her reports on judicial review.”

The group calling themselves “concerned lawyers and educationalists for equality before the law” – consisting of KwaZulu-Natal-based lawyers sympathetic to President Jacob Zuma – said Madonsela flouted the law by failing to test her conclusions through cross-examination and her Nkandla report, Secure in Comfort, was “littered with flaws, inaccuracies, inconsistencies, contradictions and inexcusable errors”.

In a formal complaint made to Parliament this week, the group said that the Nkandla report damaged the reputation of the president and the country and may have contributed to South Africa’s recent credit-rating downgrades.

It also called for her removal from office if she was found to have contravened the Constitution or the Public Protector’s Act.

Today, Segalwe said the Speaker of Parliament was not the right forum to address those concerns as the issue raised related to the Public Protector’s decisions, rather than her conduct.

“She wrote to the Speaker last month when the matter first arose, expressing these sentiments, and the fact that she was surprised by the action, since the group had previously threatened legal action against her,” he said.

An ad hoc committee, which is preparing a report to the National Assembly on various investigations into the Nkandla controversy, has been sitting despite a walkout by opposition members.

Madonsela had recommended in her report ‘Secure in Comfort’ that Zuma repay part of the R246 million spent on upgrades to his private Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal home that was unrelated to security measures.

The committee, which consists only of ANC MPs following an opposition walkout, resolved to refer the complaint to Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice.

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