Madonsela: ‘They tried to stop me’

2014-03-23 14:00

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Thuli Madonsela has spoken out in detail for the first time about how various ministers and state lawyers tried to bulldoze her into stopping the Nkandla investigation.

Madonsela said she had initially received great cooperation from the ministers and the presidency, but it all changed when she started asking tough questions at the beginning of last year.

“Then government departments started clubbing together. Suddenly, there was a group approach with an intention to frustrate the investigation. Departments like police, who had been providing us with documents, suddenly said the papers were unavailable. Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa asked me: ‘Why are you doing the investigation when there is a task team doing the same thing?’

“He said you cannot have two government institutions conducting the same investigation. He said the government task team had recommended that the SIU [Special Investigating Unit ] and the AG [Auditor-General] should do the investigation.

“So I had to explain to him that the SIU and AG were not internal but independent institutions. I had to ask him why government had started a new investigation [task team] when there was one under way.

“I explained that we had already started the investigation and resources were already invested in it. The investigation was also 90% complete.”

Madonsela said she had met Mthethwa, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi on April 22, but the meeting did not resolve issues because they insisted she defer her investigation.

“By then, the AG had already declined to investigate. And the SIU could not investigate without a presidential proclamation.”

Madonsela said she also could not understand why ministers were placing so much reliance on an informal task team of public servants appointed by ministers who they were expected to ask tough questions about.

“You can’t compare that with a constitutional structure such as the Public Protector,” she said.

She said soon after meeting the ministers, she had received a letter from the state attorney, who conveyed their request that her office should stop its investigation.

Madonsela said she could not understand the logic.

At the second meeting on May 31, the ministers, who now included Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, brought chief state law adviser Enver Daniels with them. He told her that, “constitutionally”, if members of the Cabinet said other structures should investigate, she should abide by that.

At the meeting, it was Radebe who said her office did not need their permission to investigate. Madonsela took City Press through the details of the red tape partly to refute talk that she had delayed the report when, in fact, it was government that had caused the delay.

According to her, the stalling began in January and ended in July last year. She said she told the ANC the same thing when they met last year. “So for the ANC to come now and say the timing is suspicious is just wrong.”

She said the differences about her jurisdiction, the fights about whether she understood security matters and the request for extensions before she finalised her report all contributed to the delays.

Madonsela said at one point Zuma asked for an extension because he was ostensibly going to speak to the ANC about his need for more time to respond.

“So when the ANC was saying in public that I should release the report without delay, I exp ected government communications to issue a statement explaining thedelay as it was due to the president. E

ven with the second extension for the president, government communications said nothing.”

She says although the public attacks do not bother her, they had affected her staff.

“Staff requested not to be part of the panel of investigators. Those who were involved requested that their names not be mentioned in the final report. Usually, having their names in the report is a source of pride.”

Madonsela said people who accused her of being aligned to the DA were being mischievous. “They know that it’s not true, they are just playing games.”

She said it was problematic when government disowned its own rules.

“Nkandla must be the turning point. We need to relook the growing tendency in public service of saying: ‘If the man upstairs wants it, it must happen. What the costs are or what the law says does not matter.’ It is a culture that also says where there are no clearly defined laws, you just take the law into your own hands. It is clearly against the law,” said Madonsela.

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