The Public Protector’s office has found President Jacob Zuma guilty of ethical violations regarding the security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead. As the report notes, “[Zuma’s] failure to act in protection of state resources constitutes a violation of…the executive ethics code.” This, Madonsela says, “is inconsistent with his office as a member of Cabinet, as contemplated by section 96 of the Constitution.” It is a devastating report of a Presidency gone awry. By RICHARD POPLAK and RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
In her comprehensive report on the so-called “Nkandla Project”, released to the press during a media lock-up at the Public Protector’s office in Hatfield, Pretoria, this morning, Thuli Madonsela made devastating findings against President Jacob Zuma, the Ministers of Police and Public Works, the former Minister and Deputy Minister of Public Works, and officials of Public Works, Police and the Department of Defence. In short, the report is an indictment of a presidential project that spun massively out of control. The document’s release should have sizeable implications on the elections scheduled for 7 May.
The 443-page report, which collates interviews and thousands of pages of documents, reveals a mess of improper conduct, ethical violations and maladministration that stretch all the way to the Presidency. The Public Protector found that President Zuma’s role was “that of the ultimate guardian of the resources of the people of South Africa. [I] believe the President ideally should have asked questions regarding the scale, cost, and affordability of the Nkandla Project.”
In language that was often frank and occasionally brutal, the report insisted that “[t]he President is to…take steps with the assistance of the National Treasury and the SAPS…to pay back a reasonable percentage of the cost[s]…that do not relate to security.” These include “the visitor’s centre, the amphitheatre, the cattle kraal and the chicken run, the swimming pool.”
Madonsela also instructed Zuma to “reprimand the ministers involved for the appalling manner in which the Nkandla Project was handled and state funds were abused.”
She said that he should “[r]eport to the National Assembly on his comments and actions on this report within 14 days.”
While it is currently impossible to know what measures Zuma and the ANC will take with regard to these recommendations, the report left no doubt about the scale of the malfeasance. Both are to react to the report later on Wednesday.
In summary of Jacob Zuma’s ethical violations, the report noted that “[t]he implementation of the Nkandla Project leaves one with the impression of excessive and unconscionable ‘Rolls Royce’ security constituting an island in a sea of poverty and paucity of public infrastructure. This cannot be accepted as conscionable in any state and certainly not any state where section 195 and 237 of the Constitution promise to put people first and where the Batho Pele White Paper undertakes to transform the state from the insular Apartheid state into one which is people centred and puts people first.”
A graph in the middle of the report compares the residences of past presidents, including Apartheid leaders P.W. Botha and F.W. De Klerk, and finds that Nkandla is far and away the most expensive upgrade in South African history. Where Botha’s upgrades cost roughly R20,000 (a little over R173,000 at current rates), and Thabo Mbeki’s R8,113,703.24, Zuma’s upgrades stand at R241 million. (Madonsela stated that the final costs would run up to R246 million). The bulletproof glass installation alone cost R3 million, and the in situ clinic—which in Nelson Mandela’s case was designed as a mobile clinic—has cost R11 million so far.
During a press conference following the release of the report, Madonsela asked, “Where is the money coming from and how has it been accounted for?” The report noted that funds were reallocated from Inner City Regeneration and the Dolomite Risk Management Programmes of the Department of Public Works. Madonsela noted that “due to a lack of proper demand management and planning service delivery programmes the DPW [was] negatively affected. This was in violation of section 237 of the Constitution…and accordingly constitutes improper conduct and maladministration.”
There was, according to the report, almost no element of the project that was free of rot, all of which represented an undue waste of public money. Regarding Zuma having taken out a mortgage bond to pay for a portion of the private residence construction costs, as he claimed last year in Parliament, the report finds no evidence of such funds having been borrowed or spent.
In short, the report has found that Nkandla’s outrageous cost overruns landed squarely at President Jacob Zuma’s feet. The report closed with a quote from Nelson Mandela that throws a stark light on what came before. “Let it never be said by future generations that indifference, cynicism or selfishness made us fail to live up to the ideals of humanism which the Nobel Peace Prize encapsulates.” DM
Photo: President Jacob Zuma (Reuters)
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