Security cluster welcomes Nkandla order

2013-11-09 16:28
Op die lys: Thuli Madonsela, openbare beskermer.

Op die lys: Thuli Madonsela, openbare beskermer.

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Johannesburg - The state's security cluster welcomed a court order on Friday granting it a hearing on its application to prevent Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's preliminary report on Nkandla from being released.

"The decision to refer the matter to court follows a series of unsuccessful attempts by the security cluster to obtain from the office of the public protector a reasonable extension to provide comments on the interim report," government said in a statement.

"The investigation by the public protector was carried over a period of about a year covering a wide scope of legislative and security issues that may not be adequately covered for comment over a few days."

An urgent application by the cluster to prevent Madonsela from releasing the report into President Jacob Zuma's KwaZulu-Natal homestead was postponed in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Friday. It would be heard next Friday.

William Mokhari, SC, for the cluster, told the court Madonsela was served an application for the interdict on Friday morning.

"We understand that the respondent [Madonsela] needs some time to file opposing papers and we have no objection to that."

He said the parties came to an agreement.

"The first item [of the agreement] is that the matter be postponed to the 15th of November 2013," he said.

"The respondent is to file the answering affidavit by Tuesday... and the applicants shall deliver replying affidavits by 17:00 hours on Wednesday."

The parties would file heads of argument by noon on Thursday.

"[There is also]... an undertaking by the respondent [Madonsela] not to release the provisional report pending the finalisation of the application."

Judge Sulet Potterill said the draft order of the agreement was made an order of court.

Zuma's safety a concern

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said in a founding affidavit that Zuma's safety would be compromised if Madonsela released the provisional report without state comment.

"If the report is released in its current form as intended by the respondent on [Saturday]... the applicants will suffer irreparable harm and the security of the state and the safety of the president will be severely compromised," he said.

Mthethwa said in the affidavit that Madonsela initially released the report to the security cluster because she was aware it contained "classified, top secret and confidential matters which may impact on the security of the state and president".

Mthethwa said releasing the report to other affected, implicated and interested parties before the cluster commented was therefore unlawful.

Madonsela's office said earlier that the protector was due to receive comments on the report from the security cluster on Friday.

This followed a special request made by the cluster to have access to the report ahead of all other parties, to establish if its contents would compromise Zuma's security.

"The report was shared with the said parties on 1 November, with a return date of Wednesday. The deadline was subsequently extended to Friday, following a request from the organs of state concerned," it said.

'Cover up'

Mthethwa said in his affidavit that the cluster, through Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, sent a request to Madonsela on Monday for an extension of the deadline to submit their comments.

"The reason for the request was that the provisional report is voluminous... 357 pages," he said.

"On 5 November [Tuesday] the applicants received the response from the respondent stating that the request was declined and that an additional two days were granted... to provide a response."

Mthethwa said Madonsela stated she would release the provisional report on Saturday, whether she received the comments or not.

The notice of motion, by the cluster, stated that it be given an extension to 15 November to submit its comments on the report. Once Madonsela received them she had to send the revised report back to the cluster.

This was to determine whether or not security concerns raised had been addressed. The security cluster also asked to have seven more days to make further comments.

The Christian Democratic Party (CDP) said on Friday the interdict was an attempt to cover up irregularities.

"Attempts by the government to prevent the release of the public protector's report on Nkandla [is] tantamount to high treason and violates constitutional principles," CDP leader Theunis Botha said in a statement.

"To effectively undermine the Constitution can be regarded as a statutory coup, with opposition parties being excluded from exercising their constitutional right as protected by law."

Read more on:    thuli madonsela  |  johannesburg  |  nkandla upgrade

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