Nkandla cover-up?

2013-11-10 10:00

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Sources close to Thuli Madonsela say she believes the security cluster is trying to stall the report until next year’s general elections

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela believes government wants to cover up her damning findings on its spending of R206 million on President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla.

Sources close to her office believe the state security cluster’s intention is to keep the provisional report under wraps until after next year’s general elections.

City Press can also reveal that Madonsela intends arguing in court that State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe had lied.

They told the media yesterday that it was her, and not them, who had made the first move, asking to assess whether her report compromised Zuma’s security and that of the state before she released it.

Although Madonsela would not comment, sources close to her said she viewed the court battle as a threat to her independence and that the security cluster – which consists of the ministers of justice, defence, state security and police – wished to water down the report and ensure that many of the findings were not disclosed.

They say it was them, and not her, who made a “special request” to view the report before its release to affected parties.

However, at his press conference yesterday, Radebe said it was the other way around.

“It is the public protector herself who gave us this provisional report so that we can check the security concerns. It was not initiated by us. It was the public protector herself.”

City Press understands that Madonsela intends challenging the security cluster’s demands that they have a say in what is contained in the provisional and final reports.

Late yesterday, Madonsela’s office announced she would issue a statement tomorrow to explain why she would not extend the deadline she gave them to comment on her report.

She will also explain that the security cluster did not “exhaust all avenues” before going to court and that the cluster’s interdict is meant to influence her report’s contents.

City Press understands that the ministers involved wrote to her before 2pm on Thursday and demanded that she not release the report and that she give them an extension.

“They demanded an answer within an hour. That is really an ultimatum. What stopped them at that time to request an urgent meeting? Whenever there have been issues to raise between her and the security cluster they have called meetings,” said a source close to Madonsela.

“They say they’ve identified a plethora of security breaches in the report, but what stopped them from making those comments available for Madonsela to consider? ... Going to court is merely meant to drag out this report until we go to elections.”

Madonsela has taken exception to the ministers’ demand that the report be redrafted due to security concerns. She believes there was nothing in it which compromises Zuma’s security.

“In court papers, where they are talking about Madonsela being in violation of Section 4 of the National Key Points Act if she released the report, that is a threat. In court papers, they specifically say it is a criminal offence and that implies they will send the police to arrest her,” said a senior official.

Yesterday the ANC continued to protect Zuma.

Spokesperson Keith Khoza banned any questions not relating to voter registration when he addressed reporters during his visit to Zuma’s voting station at Ntolwane Primary School near Nkandla.

Khoza told journalists that secretary-general Gwede Mantashe would deal with the report on behalf of the ANC.

A similar strategy has unfolded in government with Cabinet members used to withhold the report’s release and win the war of spin.

Police minister Nathi Mthethwa’s announcements this week on the commission into the National Key Points Act – which he used to try and block the Nkandla report by declaring Zuma’s estate a national key point after City Press exposed the massive bill – will also be used to delay the report’s release.

ANC and government insiders are split on whether the court action is part of a strategy to draw the matter out until after the elections or a legitimate need for more time.

“This is not about delaying the release until after elections. ANC voters don’t care about this report. It won’t have any impact on voters,’’ said a senior security cluster official.

“The lady went too far. She attached all kinds of sensitive documents and diagrams to the report which gave far too much detail about security.

“There was no way a release could go ahead.’’

In a statement yesterday, ANC deputy secretary Jessie Duarte said the party backed the interdict application. However, she praised Madonsela’s work.

Two national executive committee (NEC) members said the Madonsela matter was not discussed by the body.

One said it was better for the report to be released soon so it would not affect the ANC’s election campaign.

“I wish that thing would come out and be discussed with the people so that it passes,” he said.

Nkandla court battle: They said, she said

1. “A release of the provisional report?...?without prior authorisation of the [security cluster]?...?is unlawful and carries with it a criminal penalty.” – Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa in his affidavit

2. “If the provisional report is released in its current form as intended by the [Public Protector], the [security cluster] will suffer irrepairable harm and the safety of the president will be severely compromised.” – Mthethwa

3. “As you are aware that the provisional report is voluminous [357 pages], the report was received late on Friday [November 1] and that relevant ministers would need to properly analyse the report in order to identify all security concerns.

“Therefore, it is our respectable [sic] view that the deadline set out in your letter is inadequate.” – Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi in a letter to Thuli Madonsela attached to the court papers

4. “I am of the view that such issues, if any, should be glaringly obvious to the ministers of the security cluster from reading the report that should, at the most, not take more than two days.” – Madonsela in her response to Nxesi

5. “Should I not be in receipt of your comments and that of the other ministers on the security issues referred to above by the close of business on November 8, I will continue to grant the other affected, implicated and interested parties access to the provisional report as from November 9.” – Madonsela in her response to Nxesi

6. “I have to indicate that I have been advised that the scope of the task is substantially more extensive than initially envisaged when we requested an extension of time until November 15. “We may, therefore, need to approach you for a further extension should the need arises [sic].” – Nxesi, in his response to Madonsela

7. “We reserve our right to take the necessary legal actions to preserve the security of the state as well as part of the national key points.” – Nxesi, concluding his response to Madonsela

Security cluster versus Thuli Madonsela: full court papers

Anatomy of a cover-up

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