Protector warns Zuma over 'dangerous precedent'

By Drum Digital
31 October 2014

The public protector has warned President Jacob Zuma in a letter that his remarks over her role could lead to "lawlessness" and set a dangerous precedent, Beeld reported on Friday.

"It can lead to lawlessness, which can have a damaging effect on the effect of the public protector," she said, in a translation from the Afrikaans daily.

According to the 13-page letter she sent on September 15 seeking an answer on her report on his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said he was trying to belittle her office.

In March Madonsela found that Zuma must pay back some of the R246 million spent on security upgrades at his Nkandla home and Zuma was supposed to reply to her report within 14 days.

Instead, Zuma wrote to Madonsela saying that his role was not merely to rubber stamp her findings, and only a court could review them.

Madonsela's latest letter -- her second after another went unanswered in August -- said: "All that I asked... was your response to my findings and an indication of what you plan to do to follow it up."

She noted that he did not previously object to her actions where other members of the executive were involved.

"I must say, Mr President, that the view in your letter can set a dangerous precedent which could be followed by the rest of the executive and state officials."

Madonsela also requested a face-to-face meeting with Zuma.

Zuma's spokesman Mac Maharaj could not tell Beeld at the time of going to press why Zuma had not yet replied and whether he intended replying to Madonsela.

Maharaj was not in a position to comment immediately when contacted by Sapa on Friday.

On Wednesday, the public protector's office acting spokesman Oupa Segalwe confirmed to Sapa that a letter was sent on September 15, 2014 and a response had not been received.

He said Madonsela had decided to leave the matter to Parliament.

Segalwe said the clarification given by Western Cape High Court Judge Ashton Schippers last week following a Democratic Alliance application over another finding, was in line with the view Madonsela had always held -- that she did not make "mere recommendations" that could be ignored by organs of state.

Last Friday the court ruled in a matter relating to the recommended suspension of SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng that, unlike an order or decision of a court, a finding by the public protector is not binding on persons and organs of state. But, they are not "mere recommendations, which an organ of state may accept or reject".

A draft report by Parliament's portfolio committee on the matter on Thursday absolved Zuma and concluded that Madonsela's findings against him were not binding.

The committee, consisting only of MPs from the majority African National Congress, which Zuma heads, also said it was not necessary to call Zuma to answer questions on the upgrade.

MPs from opposition parties walked out of proceedings earlier.

Zuma has asked Police Minister Nathi Nhleko to decide whether he is liable to repay any funds.

In addition to the request to Nhleko, the Special Investigating Unit is pursuing aspects of the Nkandla upgrades in court in processes aimed at recovering some costs that it believes were inflated from other people involved.

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