Public Protector ruling not legally binding - Jeffery

2014-10-05 14:06
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela speaks at a conference on crime and justice in Sandton, Johannesburg. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela speaks at a conference on crime and justice in Sandton, Johannesburg. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The decisions taken by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela are not legally binding, Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery said.

"It all boils down to the question of whether or not the Public Protector's decisions are legally binding or enforceable? We, in government, argue that they cannot be," he said in a speech prepared for delivery at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday.

"The Public Protector is not a court of law."

The copy of his speech, received on Sunday, said that when the Constitutional Court certified the text of the Constitution, it held that the public protector was an office modelled on the institution of an Ombudsman.

"The only reason it was called a Public Protector and [not] an Ombudsman is because the term Ombudsman was considered to be gender-insensitive."

"Ombuds around the world do not make legally enforceable findings, unless their enabling legislation expressly provides them with quasi-judicial powers."

Jeffery said the powers of the public protector was limited and that the Constitution refers only to recommendations that she can make.

In March, Madonsela found that Zuma had derived undue benefit from R246m in improvements made to his Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal. She recommended that he pay back a portion of the money. Zuma did not do so, and instead waited for the outcome of another investigation by the Special Investigating Unit.

The SIU blamed the architect Minenhle Makhanya for inflating the costs of the Nkandla project, and filed a civil claim against him for R155m in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on 11 August. Makhanya has hired high profile lawyers to contest the case.

Twelve other officials from the public works department who were implicated in wrongdoing related to the upgrades were due to appear before a disciplinary hearing in Durban. The first hearing would commence on 27 October.

Parliament's ad-hoc committee on Nkandla is also dealing with the matter, albeit without the opposition who walked out.

Read more on:    public protector  |  john jeffery  |  thuli ­madonsela

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