Complaint against Madonsela over Nkandla


Parliament has received both a letter from Public Protector Thuli Madonsela describing an impasse with the presidency on her Nkandla report, and a formal complaint calling for "corrective measures" against her.

This emerged on Thursday at a meeting of the ad hoc committee preparing a report to the National Assembly on various probes into the so-called security revamp to President Jacob Zuma's private home in KwaZulu-Natal.

The committee, which consists only of ANC MPs following an opposition walkout, resolved to refer the complaint of gross misconduct against Madonsela by Concerned Lawyers and Educationists for Equality before the Law, to Parliament's portfolio committee on justice.

The group, consisting of KwaZulu-Natal-based lawyers sympathetic to Zuma, said Madonsela flouted the law by failing to test her conclusions through cross-examination and her report, "Secure in Comfort", was "littered with flaws, inaccuracies, inconsistencies, contradictions and inexcusable errors".

It damaged the reputation of the president and the country, and may have contributed to South Africa's recent credit-rating downgrades, they charged.

Moreover, the timing of its release in March may have been calculated to harm the ANC and benefit the opposition in the May elections,

They concluded that "if the public protector is found to have contravened the Constitution and the Public Protector's Act, she be dealt with in terms of Section 194 of the Constitution and be removed forthwith from office".

ANC deputy Chief Whip Doris Dlakude said the complaint "must be referred to the relevant portfolio committee" and chairman Cedric Frolick noted it would be handed to the justice committee.

He read out sections from a letter by an obscure Durban-based group, the Public Members Unit Team, who said they felt "this issue has humiliated" Zuma and were prepared to shoulder the financial cost of additions to his home on his behalf.

"With all respect and not undermining the public protector's work, we strongly believe that the president was not aware and (is) still not aware of how much exactly was supposed to be spent on his house at iNkandla regarding the security upgrade."

They said Madonsela should determine the amount owed to the state "and we, as Public Members Unit Team, we will pay that money back on behalf of the President Jacob Zuma".

Frolick then turned to a third letter, which was sent by Madonsela to the National Assembly Speaker on October 2.

She wrote that her office and the presidency were at a deadlock over her directive that he reimburse the state for luxuries added to his home, and that he had failed to respond to a letter she sent him on September 15.

"Having reflected on the issues raised in the attached correspondence and a way forward in resolving the apparent impasse in respect of the remedial action taken in my report, I considered approaching him in terms of section eight of the Public Protector Act, and to request a debate on the matter in the National Assembly."

However, she added, given that the committee was dealing with her report, among others, "I have decided to defer to that process".

Frolick said though Madonsela was correctly deferring to the committee, he wanted to stress that any request for a debate would have been misplaced.

Justice committee chairman Mathole Motshekga added: "For the public protector to come back to Parliament and ask Parliament to debate an issue which relates to a matter that is before this committee I think is really, it is some kind of interference with the processes of Parliament.

"She should be advised to desist from that."

Madonsela offered to appear before the committee if it believed it needed to be briefed on her report -- something the opposition wanted, but ANC MPs resisted.

Frolick later told reporters: "The need has not arisen for any additional information from the public protector."

The content of Madonsela's last letter to Zuma is not known and her office on Thursday declined to release it. It was sent four days after Zuma insisted in a letter to her, which the presidency released to the media, that her findings were not binding.

Zuma stated he was not obliged to "rubberstamp" her directives of remedial action -- in the case of Nkandla that the police minister determine which additions did not relate to security for the sake of eventual repayment by the president.

The ad hoc committee did not begin deliberations on a draft report as scheduled on Thursday because parliamentary staff said they needed more time to prepare it.

Frolick said he would therefore consider asking the Speaker for an extension to the committee's October 24 reporting deadline to the National Assembly.

But ruling party MPs already concluded at its last meeting that they would not hold Zuma responsible for overspending at Nkandla, or call on him to pay for luxuries like a swimming pool and cattle kraal out of his own pocket.

Motshekga told his colleagues the notion would be "absurd".

Last month opposition parties withdrew from the committee, saying they would not legitimise a process they claimed was designed to shield Zuma from liability for alleged abuse of state funds.

They said on October 3 they would table their own report on the matter in Parliament.


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