Zuma dodges Thuli’s order

2014-08-15 00:00

CAPE TOWN — President Jacob Zuma yesterday sidestepped the public protector’s order that he must pay back a “reasonable percentage” of the millions spent at Nkandla.

Zuma yesterday tabled his long-awaited answer to Thuli Madonsela’s report, 148 days after she handed it to Parliament. In his 20-page reply, Zuma moved the focus to the minister of Police, who he said must now determine if the president can be held accountable for improvements made to the president’s house under the National Key Points Act.

Political analysts and opposition parties said Zuma’s decision to refer the matter to the minister of Police is outrageous, in contempt of Madonsela’s ruling and just another way to avoid being held accountable.

In his answer, Zuma accepts no responsibility for the excess and overspending, he does not apologise for transgressing the Executive Members’ Ethics Act and parts of the Constitution, and maintains he was not “intimately involved” in the improvements to his rural estate.

Madonsela could not be reached for comment on the apparent contempt of her office at the time of going to print.

Zuma, who maintained that he did not know about the cost of the renovations and improvements at his property, admitted in his answer that he was “from time to time both formally and informally” informed by several ministers on the project’s progress.

He was, however, vague about what he knew and what he didn’t know, and said he was not “intimately aware of the finer details”.

He stressed the security improvements and the buildings for security staff were not built on his insistence, but did not answer anything about the other items on the lists of both the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the public protector, which their reports stated should not have been paid for by the taxpayer.

Zuma makes five recommendations on the grounds of the Nkandla reports produced by the government task team, the protector and the SIU:

• The minister of Police must fast-track a review of the National Key Points Act;

• The minister of Police must determine whether the president must be held accountable for the improvements to his property under the act;

• The minister of Public Works must urgently report to cabinet on reviewing protocols and procedures in terms of acquisition, spending and oversight of prestige projects;

• The ministers in the security cluster and the minister of Public Works must report to cabinet on their roles and responsibilities with regards to the security of the president and deputy president, as well as former presidents and deputy presidents; and

• The cabinet must review the cabinet’s policy of 2003 to put a limit on spending in place.

Zuma said he is satisfied with the SIU’s report and its actions.

The speaker’s office yesterday said the National Assembly will discuss Zuma’s answer next week. The assembly may decide to put a second ad hoc committee in place to handle the Nkandla issue.

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