/ 14 November 2013

Government defends decision to take Madonsela to court

Government Defends Decision To Take Madonsela To Court

The government on Thursday has defended its decision to take public protector Thuli Madonsela to court over the provisional Nkandla report, which delves into the over R200-million security upgrade of President Jacob Zuma's homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.

"From the onset it needs to be noted that government's application was never about the right of the public protector to release the provisional report of her investigation," government communication and information system spokesperson Phumla Williams said in a statement.

She said the ministers simply sought recourse regarding the unreasonably short period within which they were to consider a lengthy and important report. "The ministers regard as unfortunate and disappointing, the manner in which the public protector responded to their request after months of interacting with her in good faith," she said.

The report on the security upgrades of Zuma's homestead of Nkandla was given to the security cluster on November 1, following a special request for access ahead of all other parties to establish whether its contents would compromise Zuma's security.

The cluster filed an urgent application in the high court in Pretoria last week to prevent Madonsela from releasing the report.

On Thursday, the ministers filed an affidavit in which they said they would abandon their action opposing the release of the report.

Persist with action
The ministers said it would be academic to persist with action as they had already secured the extension of time needed from the court. "For this reason it was felt that such a decision will no longer serve any material purpose. Government therefore decided to approach the court to request that the matter be withdrawn," said Williams.

Court action between the two was however set to continue on Friday.

Arguments about who should pay for the attempt to stop the release of the report will be heard by the high court in Pretoria on Friday.

The Congress of the People welcomed the withdrawal. "The Congress of the People is relieved by the decision of the security cluster ministers to abandon the ill-conceived litigation against the public protector of South Africa," spokesperson Johann Abrie said.

Meanwhile, the office of the ANC chief whip welcomed the conclusion of the work of the joint standing committee on intelligence, which was tasked with compiling a report on the president's private residence in Nkandla.

Spokesperson for the ANC chief whip Moloto Mothapo said the conclusion of the work of the team was a culmination of an involved process by the committee members on the contents of the task team report.

"The committee expressed its satisfaction that the task team report was correctly classified in line with the existing legislation and government policies.

"Disclosure of the contents of the task team report would have compromised both the personal and property security of the president and his immediate family," he said.

The report was tabled in Parliament. Mothapo said the committee questioned the relevance of the National Key Points Act of 1980 and recommended that it be reviewed. 

"The committee expressed concern that persons who did not have the necessary security clearance were allowed access to classified and sensitive information and access to the Nkandla property.

"This, it said, was a serious contravention that had the potential to compromise the security of the president," Mothapo said.

He said the team had found that contrary to allegations reported in the media, over 52% of the security upgrades were made on the state-owned land, not on Zuma's private property.

"The state land, which is not owned by the Zuma family, had to be acquired as the property of the president was too small to incorporate all the recommended security measures," he said. – Sapa