/ 20 November 2013

Madonsela: I will have final say on what Nkandla report says

Madonsela: I Will Have Final Say On What Nkandla Report Says

The public protector on Wednesday announced plans to address concerns raised by security cluster ministers over alleged state security breaches in her provisional report into spending at President Jacob Zuma's home, Nkandla.

But Madonsela has made it clear that she will not be dictated to by the four ministers of police, public works, state security and defence, over the vetting of the report, and she will have the final say over what her report says. 

The release of the provisional report to interested and affected parties could occur within a month.

Additionally, Madonsela revealed that the ministers are still unhappy with the state of the report. But she insisted she would not bow down to their requests if she deemed them to be unreasonable, and said she "regrets" ever showing them the report in the first place.

The security cluster ministers requested more time to view the provisional report citing security concerns about the information contained in it. They went to court on November 8 seeking an urgent interdict to bar Madonsela from releasing her provisional report to interested and affected parties until they had additional time to vet the report.

Madonsela requested a postponement and the matter was adjourned until November 15.

She said the ministers were shown the provisional report, after they requested to see it, "in good faith".

But the ministers soon abused Madonsela's trust by taking her to court over the release of the report to interested and affected parties. Madonsela said the court case shocked her.

"As promised, on Friday November 15, I received a 28-page submission from the Minister of Police on behalf of security cluster ministers, pointing out provisions of my provisional report that in their opinion, constitute … security breaches," she said.

"In hindsight, I regret allowing the ministers to see the provisional report," she said. Since the court case, her relationship with the ministers have turned "adversarial".

"Things have taken a strange turn … the dialogue has become strange. I'm not sure what's going on …" she told journalists at a briefing in Pretoria.

Madonsela explained that independent security experts might be consulted on issues of security raised by the ministers, but they would not be allowed to view the report and they would not be appointed by the state.

Madonsela said any attempts to dictate to her how the report should be handled was a violation of section 182 of the Constitution and section 6&7 of Public Protector Act. She said the provisions "give me unfettered power and responsibility to investigate, make findings, report and remedy administrative wrongs in all state affairs".

As such, the court case "is not healthy and certainly does not bode well for the principles that underpin cooperative governance."

On mapping the way forward for the Nkandla report, Madonsela announced four steps her office will now take:

  • Her team will review the 28-page submission from the ministers, assess the report, and, if necessary, make the necessary alterations
  • She will invite the ministers in the security cluster to nominate security experts from within government to meet at her office and discuss the relevant issues.
  • All unresolved issues will then be referred to "selected independent security experts".
  • And the provisional report will be shared with respondents, complainants and implicated parties within 10 days of these consultations. "Those outside of the security cluster, except the President, will not get a copy of the report but will be invited to come and view relevant parts thereof at our offices," Madonsela said. 

Where considered reasonable, the report would be altered, Madonsela said.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Madonsela said the public protector respected the outcome of the court process and would not anticipate what the outcome would be. However, she wanted to "clarify" the reasons why she did not grant the security cluster the extension it wanted.

"On the reluctance to grant the state a longer extension, the public protector was of the view that acceding to the request would be an injustice on the affected and implicated parties.

"She was, as indicated in her letter to Minister Thulas Nxesi on November 5 2013, concerned that leaving the report in the hands of the security cluster for an unduly extended period would prejudice in particular those that she has made provisional adverse findings against and those she has quoted as having provided her with evidence and who, to date, have not received the report.

"It would also not be in the public interest if the security cluster has exclusive possession of the report. These concerns were expressed to the minister, who offered no solutions to them," Madonsela said. – Additional reporting by Sapa