The recent attacks on South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in relation to her report on the investigation into the R210 million upgrade to President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla homestead should raise alarm bells for those who value South Africa’s constitutional democracy.
After attempting to interdict the Public Protector from releasing her interim report to the appropriate stakeholders for comment, the ministers of police, justice, intelligence and defence, known as the security cluster, realised that their reasoning would not withstand judicial scrutiny.
They subsequently withdrew the court action and paid costs. This is a deeply embarrassing climb down, as it became clear that Madonsela would not be intimidated from doing her constitutionally mandated job.
The legal route backfired badly, since the litigation forced Madonsela to reveal in her affidavit that there had been repeated attempts by cabinet ministers and the acting state law advisor to halt her investigation.
In addition, she stated that it was unlikely that there were justifiable security concerns to support the spending of, in the words of Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) spokesperson Patrick Craven, a ‘grotesque’ amount of public money on Zuma’s private homestead.
This occurred when it emerged that the President’s private architect, who had overseen the entire project, had neither security clearance nor expertise in security matters.
It was subsequently reported that none of the three contractors involved in the bulk of the work had security clearance for 18 months while working on the project.
This raises questions about the legitimacy of the so-called security concerns that have been used by the security cluster ministers and the Minister of Public Works as an excuse to try to protect this project from public scrutiny.
Worse for the president, it is claimed that Zuma personally chose his architect, again casting doubt on his assertion before parliament that he knew nothing about the construction project.
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