PP’s warning to president

2014-10-31 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The public protector (PP) warned President Jacob Zuma his remarks concerning her role could encourage impunity and set a bad example for government officials.

Sister paper Beeld has a copy of the explosive letter in which advocate Thuli Madonsela wrote to the president about her findings on the R246 million in taxpayers’ money spent at his private estate at Nkandla.

Zuma has not yet reacted to the sharply worded 13-page letter, in which Madonsela takes Zuma to task for arguing over her constitutional authority and belittling her office.

In the letter she implies Zuma has double standards and only supported her findings and rectifying steps when he is not the guilty party.

“I must hasten to indicate, Mr President, that the remark sounded like a put-down though I am mindful that you would not deliberately try to belittle me or my office,” she wrote.

In March, Madonsela recommended that Zuma pay back a reasonable percentage of the millions in state money spent in improving his private estate. Zuma sidestepped this by asking the minister of police to decide if he should pay back money spent on “security systems”, which famously includes a swimming pool described as a “fire pool”.

Madonsela wrote the letter, dated September 15, in reaction to a letter from Zuma in which the president argues the extent of her constitutional powers and said she could not expect him to accept her report.

Madonsela wrote it was never her intention to do more than help Zuma.

She states all she is asking is for Zuma’s comment on her findings and for an indication from him what he has done — or would do — to meet the recommendations.

Madonsela repeated that she is confused and puzzled by Zuma, saying his view of her role did not tie in with his past utterances.

“Am I to understand, Mr President, that going forward you would like the office to desist from taking appropriate remedial action?

“I must remind you though, sir, that previously you have not objected when the office did so in pursuit of remedial action in matters involving ethical violations by other members of the executive. Instead, your office has assisted us with feedback.”

She reprimanded Zuma for not reacting in writing to her report in Parliament, which was contrary to both his promise and the stipulation in the Executive Members’ Ethics Act of 1998. Section 82 says members must react to the PP within 14 days.

She warned Zuma he was setting a bad example. “The views expressed in your letter may set a dangerous precedent that is likely to be followed by the executive and officials of many organs of state, may encourage impunity which will have a detrimental impact on the effectiveness of the PP,” she wrote.

She added such action could be seen as contrary to section 181(3) of the Constitution. In her letter Madonsela asked for a meeting with Zuma to discuss the matter, but instead the ANC launched a public diatribe against Madonsela’s person and her office that still continues on several fronts.

Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj was yesterday unable to say why the president had not yet reacted to the PP’s letter after six weeks, or whether he would react.

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