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Race to courts following Nkandla Report

By Staff Writer
Two opposition parties, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), could take the Police Minister Nathi Nhleko to court following his announcement of his findings on the security upgrades made to President Jacob Zuma’s personal residence, Nkandla last week.
 
Nhleko ruled that the president did not have to make any of his own payments for the lavish upgrades, which include a fire pool, cattle kraal and chicken run, as he deemed them all necessary as ‘security features’.
 
According to many of the political parties in South Africa, the findings of Nhleko’s Nkandla Report were predictable, and therefore did not come as a surprise.
 
Economic Freedom Fighters
 
The EFF are the first political party to take legal action following the announcement of the findings of Minister Nhleko’s Nkandla Report.
 
A statement released by the EFF on Sunday (31 May 2015), read: “After reading the report recently issued by Minister Nathi Nhleko and having sought legal advice, the EFF wishes to announce its decision to bring a legal challenge against the actions of the Ministers Nathi Nhleko, Thulas Nxesi, President Jacob Zuma and the South African Cabinet in collectively and deliberately breaching the Constitution in many respects.”
 
The party added: “The courts have repeatedly stated the principle that the remedial actions proposed by the Public Protector must be complied with unless a party approaches a court of law to set them aside. This cannot be done via a press conference as members of the Executive did last Thursday.
 
“The EFF has consistently maintained that Zuma must ‘pay back the money’ in line with the findings and remedial actions prescribed by the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela. For Nhleko to suggest that Zuma must pay nothing when he unduly benefited is laughable and against the law.
 
“Nhleko’s report was nothing but a rehash of the discredited findings of the Inter-Ministerial Report released in December 2013 by Thulas Nxesi. That report was released before the Public Protector report and she had considered its findings in her report, which she severely criticised. To revive it now is just fraudulent obstinacy on the part of the Executive and an insult to the collective intelligence of South Africans.”
 
The EFF added: “[We vow] to continue to raise the question of when, and not whether, Jacob Zuma will pay back the money, whenever he appears in Parliament in the next four years until such time that he complies with the law. This will include State of the Nation addresses, debates, Budget Vote addresses, Question sessions and all other appearances.”
 
The Democratic Alliance
 
In a press statement released on Thursday, Mmusi Maimane, federal leader and parliamentary leader of the DA, stated: “Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko’s determination that President Zuma is not liable for any of the lavish upgrades to his private residence at Nkandla is an insult to the South African people.
 
“The DA will not allow the President to get away with the theft of public funds. We have, therefore, referred the matter to our legal team for the consideration of the rationale of Minister Nhleko’s determination, and our constitutional and legal remedies.”
 
Mabine Seabe, spokesperson to the leader of the DA, told Justmoney: “We will first exhaust all parliamentary processes before we consider going to court.”
 
Seabe highlighted: “If we go to court, the State will use taxpayers’ money to fight to protect the President from being held accountable, while we will be using our own money to ensure that the President is held accountable.”
 
She pointed out: “There is a Public Protector report, which states that President Zuma must pay a reasonable percentage of the costs. Just last year (24 October 2014) the Western Cape High Court ruled that the Public Protector's findings cannot be summarily ignored. We are working to ensure that the rule of law is upheld and that we are all equal before the law, even if you’re the President.”
 
Maimane said: “The DA previously determined that the President is liable for at least an amount of R52.9 million for the non-security upgrades to his private home in KwaZulu-Natal. In addition to this amount, the President further remains liable for the tax on the fringe benefit received from the upgrades.”
 
He added: “The DA believes in a society that values freedom, fairness and opportunity where no one, including the President, can escape responsibility for their actions. We will therefore continue to fight to see that the President Zuma pays what is owed.”
 
The Freedom Front Plus
 
Pieter Swart, spokesperson from the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) told Justmoney that the findings from Minister Nhleko’s Nkandla Report were expected.
 
“We didn’t believe that anything else could come out of that. It must be kept in mind that the Minister is a direct appointment of Mr President, he’s paying his salary, so we definitely didn’t think he was going to do anything that could harm his position as minister,” he stated.
 
In a statement released on Thursday, Dr Corné Mulder, chief whip of the FF Plus, said: “The report of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, on Nkandla is a further desperate attempt of the ANC to defend the indefensible and will merely contribute to make this scandal part of President Jacob Zuma’s legacy.”
 
He added: “This cover-up by Minster Nhleko will not be the last word about this outrage and will now form an important part of president Zuma’s legacy. Everything is about the R246 million of taxpayers’ money which was wasted to improve the private residence of the president.”
 
Inkhata Freedom Party
 
Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP) Chief Whip Narend Singh explained to Justmoney: “The report, as far as we are concerned, is farcical and outrageous and it is like a sick joke. We will await the constitution of the Ad Hoc Committee, where the IFP will be serving, and place before the committee what our requests are and make sure that the terms of reference are clearly understood.
 
“We will be demanding things like the minister to appear, both the ministers of police and public works, together with the so-called experts who provided information to them, on how they have reached conclusions on categorising all those elements as security upgrades.”
 
With regards to the findings that the cattle kraal, chicken run, amphitheatre, swimming pool and visitors’ centre were necessary security features, Singh said: “I think to ordinary South Africans this just does not make sense that those particular items can be classified as part of security.
 
“However, we want to give them the benefit of the doubt and let those very security experts who informed and advised the minister to tell us what their views are, so that we can get our own experts to come in and make their views known to the committee as well.”
 
During the announcement of the findings, Nhleko also revealed that further security upgrades are required at Zuma’s Nkandla residence. Singh highlighted: “[This] is something else that we need to unpack. For what they have had at the moment it just doesn’t make sense, and this is rubbing salt into the wound if they want to suggest to the South African public that they have to use the taxpayers’ money to go and put further security upgrades.”
 
Singh added: “The Public Protector’s report is a more credible finding, I think not only for the IFP, but in the eyes of the South African public.
 
“We need to take note of the report and find out why there are such big discrepancies. The minister said yesterday that she didn’t have experts, so if he had experts that advised him, we want the experts to come before us.”
 
The Public Protector’s response
 
Following the release of Minster Nhleko’s report, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has notedthat Nhleko “gave the matter his best and he applied his mind to the issues at hand.” However, she has highlighted that there are several shortcomings to Nhleko’s report.
 
In a statementreleased by Madonsela, she said: “The Public Protector believes the shortcomings of the Minister’s report are partly due to the fact that the Minister is a member of an executive, whose members, including the minister’s supervisor, are among the public functionaries found to have acted improperly in the report.
 
“The shortcomings observed by the Public Protector include misstatements, inaccuracies, incomplete information, innuendos and false accusations in relation to her own investigation culminating in a report titled Secure in Comfort, issued on 19 March 2014.”
 
To read the full statement by the Public Protector, click here.

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