South Africa

Nkandla: Thuli Madonsela, a woman in waiting

By Greg Nicolson 26 September 2013

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has a lot on her plate. On Wednesday, she released a number of reports, wins for the little guy, David over Goliath. But everyone is still waiting for the big one, her report into the upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home. It’s almost ready. By GREG NICOLSON.

Public Protector reports are framed in legalese. Madonsela regularly finds both institutions and individuals guilty of malpractice, maladministration, acting with a conflict of interest, or displaying incompetence. Her well-known reports often deal with a high-profile individual and the flouting of public procurement guidelines. But the juicy parts, the ones that those of us without a law degree can devour, come when she describes the fact-gathering process.

Did the implicated individuals cooperate or obstruct the investigation? If it’s the latter, one might suspect someone was trying to hide something. It makes the guilty party look, well, really guilty, because they know they’ve done something wrong.

Fair to say, someone is holding up the Public Protector’s investigation into the projected R270-million upgrade to Zuma’s private Nkandla residence. Her office is left fixing a comma here and there, replacing Americanisms with South Africanisms (isn’t Microsoft Word just a pain!), and swapping all the “Nkandla compounds” to “the President’s private residence”. That’s all they can do right now.

“There is no new update on Nkandla. We have done our part, we have a draft report written, and with any little time we get we keep editing it,” Madonsela said on Wednesday. “This is all we can do until we get that information.”

The unnamed party has until 30 September to provide the documents, requested on 11 August. She added that she doesn’t think there’s any malice in the delay (of the information which could implicate the president and top ministers in huge levels of fraud).

Alas, it wasn’t Zuma’s show on Wednesday. That will come when Madonsela eventually finalises her report. (If she’s looking for a catchy title, I propose “JZ: From Amandla to Nkandla”.)

Madonsela was briefing media on the release of a number of lesser-known investigations. In Northern Cape’s Gamagara Municipality, she found “systemic governance failure” and agreed with a number of the complaints lodged against Mayor, Maria Diniza, who passed away last week.

The community requested Madonsela’s intervention after service delivery protests erupted last year in Olifantshoek, demanding Diniza’s resignation. Three schools in the area were shut down during the protest and many of the learners are repeating the school year.

The report into the issue was titled, “The Children Shall Pay”, and sadly it was the children who suffered as the community protested against incomplete infrastructure projects, lack of service delivery and an abuse of state resources by the mayor. Madonsela made wide-ranging recommendations to ensure the community has access to basic rights and that the municipality sorts out its finances.

She also released her report, “Meet Me in Court”, an investigation into the damage a broken storm water drain caused in Cape Town. Madonsela ordered that the City of Cape Town pay the complainant, Mr Kumwenda, R25,871 for the damages he suffered when the drain burst and flooded his house, damaging his goods. “The City’s repudiation of the complainant’s claim for damages was unjustified in the circumstances and is, accordingly, improper,” said the Public Protector.

It was a day of wins for the little guy. In another report, Madonsela found the state Workmen’s Compensation Fund “unduly delayed the processing and payment of compensation benefits to the complainant, for a period of six years”, clearly an act of maladministration that prejudiced the payment of a valid claim for an injured person.

Finally, the Public Protector also found against the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for appearing to prejudice the chairperson of the Society of Part-Time Commissioners and Labour Law Practitioners of South Africa for a presentation he made to Parliament. Madonsela advised that the director issue an apology for the remarks he circulated about the chairman and afford him the opportunity to have a dispute heard in the CCMA.

If it sounds like Madonsela’s busy, she is. She gave an update on some of the current cases her team is working on, a Who’s Who of South Africa. There are ongoing investigations into the Tshwane mayor, Kgosientso Ramokgopa, the SABC’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, the Department of Education and Edu-Solutions, the Free State government, the former acting CEO of PetroSA, Yekani Tenza, the NYDA, the Department of Mineral Resources, sports minister Fikile Mbalula and his deputy, Gert Oosthuizen.

There’s one report, however, everyone’s waiting for. It was the last of Madonsela’s updates: “The Public Protector is investigating a complaint relating to the allegations of improper conduct and misappropriation of state funds in security upgrades at the president’s private residence in Nkandla. A provisional report is nearly complete.” DM

Photo: Thuli Madonsela (Greg Nicolson)


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