DA condemns Zuma's letter to Madonsela

2014-09-12 17:30
(File, City Press)

(File, City Press)

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Cape Town - The DA on Friday condemned President Jacob Zuma's letter to the Public Protector in which he disagrees with Thuli Madonsela's view that her reports and recommendations can only be reviewed by a court of law.

"The letter attempts to redefine the scope of the Office of the Public Protector, in direct violation of the Constitution," Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said in a statement.

"The Constitution is clear that only a court of law can review the outcomes of Chapter Nine institutions, which according to Section 181(2) of the Constitution 'are independent, and subject to the Constitution and the law'."

Maimane accused Zuma of misreading the Constitution.

"It is extremely worrying that the president has chosen to misrepresent the Constitution and the work of the Public Protector," Maimane said.

"In so doing, he has created the incorrect impression that compliance with remedial action taken by the Public Protector is optional."

Deferred decision

In his letter to Madonsela, Zuma said the Public Protector had arrived at her findings without the "adversarial hearing" inherent in a court process and that this was a "significant factor to caution me against a blanket acceptance without applying my own mind".

Therefore, his role was not simply to rubber stamp her findings.

The president has faced sustained criticism for not complying with Madonsela's order that he reimburse the state for improvements, such as a swimming pool and chicken run, to his homestead in Nkandla as part of a project originally meant to upgrade security.

The president last month deferred a decision on whether he was liable to repay any funds to Police Minister Nathi Nhleko.

Zuma said in his letter that he stood by this decision.

The Special Investigating Unit tabled its report on the upgrades in Parliament on Friday.

Like Madonsela, it found that Zuma was enriched by state-funded improvements to his Nkandla home.

But unlike the Public Protector, who found Zuma was liable to pay a portion of the cost, the SIU concluded that the best way of recovering R155m misspent at Nkandla was to claim it from his architect Minenhle Makhanya.

Public concern

In its report, the SIU placed the blame for the project ballooning into "unacceptable extravagance" on Makhanya.

It said its eight-month investigation showed that, through Makhanya's doing, the state suffered massive losses and many people were enriched, including Zuma and his family in the sense that the value of their home was enhanced.

"Makhanya inter alia increased the scope and extent of the works by designing and authorising items that were not required for security purposes," the SIU said in the report.

As a result of this, the cost of the project "soared from an initial estimate of some R27m to some R216m".

By any standard this was a large sum of money and the public concern was "understandable".

The unit said it faced a choice of claiming the damages and losses suffered by the department of public works from an array of people who were enriched, or to seek to recover the full amount from Makhanya himself.

"We chose the latter option," it said.

The SIU filed a civil claim for R155.3m against Makhanya in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court on 11 August.

He has hired high profile lawyers to contest the matter.

Read more on:    siu  |  jacob zuma  |  nathi nhleko  |  mmusi maimane  |  thuli madonsela  |  cape town  |  nkandla upgrade

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