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Madonsela: Parliament must 'weigh' Zuma's response

Sapa

The public protector has said that it is now up to Parliament to evaluate the president's response to "Secure in Comfort" - her report on Nkandla.

Thuli Madonsela has reiterated that the letter Jacob Zuma sent to Parliament last week made plain that he was refraining from comment on her report. (Gallo)

Public protector Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday said it was now up to Parliament to weigh President Jacob Zuma’s response to the findings on public spending on his private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.

Her remark came as the ANC proposed, as expected, that an ad hoc parliamentary committee be set up to mull the matter. This came after Zuma declined in April to respond in full to Madonsela’s report within the requisite fortnight.

“The next part actually is for Parliament to evaluate, not me,” Madonsela told Sapa on the sidelines of a justice portfolio committee meeting in the legislature. However, she reiterated that the letter Zuma sent to Parliament last week made plain that he was refraining from comment on her report on the R246-million security upgrade at his Nkandla home.

On Saturday, the presidency said that Zuma had responded to all reports regarding the security upgrades at his Nkandla private home. Madonsela’s office said on Friday that Zuma had not yet responded to her report.

In her report – titled “Secure in Comfort” – Madonsela found Zuma had benefited unduly and should repay a portion of the state money spent. “If he is not commenting, the status remains unresolved. To the extent that there is no comment in there, we don’t know what happens to the findings.

“It is a document that leaves issues open and we don’t know now,” Madonsela added, trailing off.

Executive ethics code ’violated’
Tuesday’s parliamentary order paper reflected an ANC draft resolution calling for the establishment of an ad hoc committee to consider the president’s reply to investigations by Madonsela, the Special Investigating Unit, and the security cluster task team into the Nkandla controversy.

Madonsela declined to say whether she was satisfied with Zuma’s correspondence, adding, “It is not for me to be satisfied, really it is not my place.” She added that she saw her role as a “quasi-judicial body”, as being to assist the president and Parliament, whom she said acted respectively as the custodian and the executor of the Executive Members’ Ethics Act.

In her report, Madonsela found explicitly that he had violated the executive ethics code by failing to act in a manner that protects state resources, and that this was inconsistent with his position.

Zuma’s eventual blanket response last week to the three investigations cautioned that it should not be read as a “critique” of their findings, but that his decision not to comment on them “is not reflective of the fact that I am accepting of the same”.

Madonsela summed this up by saying, “He did not confirm or deny”.

Zuma deflected a decision on whether he should repay any of the money spent at Nkandla to Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko, instructing him to report to Cabinet on the matter.

‘Doomed to fail’
Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said the ad hoc committee was doomed to fail to deal with the matter properly because of the narrow terms of reference set by the ruling party. “The resolution quite specifically refers the committee to only consider the president’s reply,” he said.

“This reply was completely inadequate. It failed to provide a comprehensive response to the public protector’s report, nor provided detailed steps on how the president intended to act on her recommendations.

“As such, this committee is predestined to fail. It will be limited to only consider what the president has said, and not what the public protector has recommended,” Maimane said.

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