Ministers present united front

2014-03-20 00:00

THE Department of Defence will set up a board of inquiry to investigate wide-ranging irregularities in connection with the damning findings in Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla report, Cabinet has announced.

Six ministers — Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa, Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi, Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe, Minister of Higher Education Angie Motshekga, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele and Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula — presented a united front in Pretoria where they presented the government’s view on Madonsela’s findings. They reiterated their previous stance that no public funds were used to build Zuma’s private residence, adding that this was also Madonsela’s finding in her report.

But the ministers, who said Cabinet welcomed the release of the report, only took eight questions related to the Nkandla report after they read a brief statement on the outcome of the investigation this afternoon.

They reiterated the presidency’s earlier statement that they respect Madonsela’s office and her right to investigate the Nkandla scandal.

Motshekga, who had never briefed the media or the public in any of the previous briefings held by the ministers in the security cluster, led the briefing, telling reporters that Cabinet would issue a more detailed response once it had studied the Nkandla report in full.

Asked whether the ministers who have been rapped over the knuckles for their role in the Nkandla saga — mainly Nxesi and Mthethwa — would resign, Radebe said Zuma was the only one who could make such a decision.

However, Radebe seemed to celebrate the ministers’ role of setting up the inter-ministerial task team. “The ministers of public works, police and defence have taken full responsibility for this project and through the government investigation have unearthed issues of corruption and maladministration involved in this project,” said Radebe.

Asked whether they would now refer to the “fire pool” as a “swimming pool” after Madonsela called the controversial structure a “swimming pool”, Radebe said the name “fire pool” would remain because that is how security agents referred to it.

“It is once more a trite fact that in the execution of the project there were elements of maladministration, corruption and inefficiencies highlighted by both the investigations of the Public Protector and the government. These include, inter alia, the flouting of supply chain management prescripts, the Public Finance Management Act, Cabinet policy of 2003 and the collusion between officials and suppliers, resulting in inflation of prices,” said Radebe.

They also stood by their initial statement last year that the security measures implemented at Nkandla were necessary for Zuma’s security.

“The retaining wall, cattle kraal and culvert, fire pool and water reservoir, accommodation for security personnel and visitors’ waiting area are all essential security features, which ensure physical security and effective operation of security equipment. These are critical in the delivery of security to the president,” said Radebe.

This is despite Madonsela finding in her probe that Zuma must pay the state a percentage of the costs for the same non-security related features.

Radebe said the SIU’s report would be handed to the National Prosecuting Authority to consider any prosecution against officials and individuals — both in the public and private sector — who were involved in the scandal.

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