DA sees protector report being 'buried'
Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma should not be allowed to rewrite the Constitution "by stealth", DA parliamentary leader Athol Trollip said on Wednesday.
The Democratic Alliance was concerned about Zuma and National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu's response to the findings of public protector Thuli Madonsela's SA Police Service (SAPS) lease deals reports, Trollip said in a statement.
A letter tabled in Parliament sent by Zuma to Sisulu strongly indicated the president had no intention of holding either Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde or National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele accountable for the improper and unlawful conduct of which the protector found them both guilty, he said.
Secondly, reports that Sisulu had referred the reports to Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) illustrated the ANC "is seeking to abuse parliamentary mechanisms to bury" Madonsela's damning findings.
The public protector, as a Chapter Nine institution, reported annually to Parliament, but its independence was enshrined in the Constitution.
Therefore, neither the Speaker, nor Parliament, had a mandate to amend or alter the findings of the protector's report in any way.
"Comments reportedly made by Scopa chair Themba Godi - that Scopa would seek legal advice regarding its handling of the... reports, including whether Sopa had the right to debate and amend Madonsela's findings and recommendations - expose the motivation that underlies the Speaker's decision to refer the report to this committee," he said.
This statement was reminiscent of one made recently by ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa that Parliament should table, debate and, if necessary, amend the report on the "dodgy SAPS lease deals".
"Such sentiment is deeply misguided and must be opposed at all costs. Any attempt by Parliament to alter the public protector's report would constitute a direct undermining of the constitutionally enshrined independence of this institution."
At the same time the Speaker "seeks to bury" the report in Parliament, Zuma's letter to the Speaker appeared to be an attempt to assuage growing criticism of his failure to act decisively against two high ranking government officials.
"It is a feeble attempt to show that some action is being taken. However, its content indicates that the president continues to vacillate on what action, if any, will be taken against the disgraced minister of public works and the national police commissioner," Trollip said.
In the letter, Zuma made no direct mention of any punitive steps that had been taken against Mahlangu-Nkabinde.
Regarding Cele, Zuma stated merely that Cele had submitted a formal response to the minister of police concerning allegations made against him and that, obtusely, the minister would undertake further work with the Treasury and public service and administration.
Trollip said the protector's report did not contain "allegations" as Zuma referred to them, but rather findings arrived at after an exhaustive investigation by an independent body.
"The president cannot be allowed to rewrite the Constitution by stealth and classify the public protector's findings as open to amendment."
Madonsela's findings were clear and her recommendations for remedial action unambiguous. With each day that passed, public confidence in Zuma, his administration, and the SAPS was waning.
Zuma had to take action against those implicated in the report without further delay, Trollip said.