President Jacob Zuma has proposed an end to the drawn-out legal controversy regarding the Public Protector’s March 2014 report on Nkandla, ‘Secure in Comfort’. While President Zuma remains critical of a number of factual aspects and legal conclusions in the report, he proposes a simple course to implement what the Public Protector recommended as remedial action contained in the report.
The Court is due to hear the matter on 9 February 2016.
The report identified irregularities that occurred in the course of upgrades by the Department of Public Works, in liaison with other departments, to the traditional family home the President has had at Nkandla for many years. How those irregularities happened continue to be investigated in separate inquiries relating to officials and professional consultants on the project.
The report specifically found no wrongdoing of any kind by the President. It also found no benefit for which the President could to any degree be required to compensate the state in relation to nearly all aspects of the project. But in relation to five features of the private homestead the report directed a further process to be carried out by National Treasury in conjunction with SAPS). This is to determine firstly a reasonable proportion of the item in question for which the President should recompense the State, and secondly the reasonable cost in that regard. The actual amount that the President is required to pay was not determined by the Public Protector who limited herself to setting out this process for the amount to be determined.
The Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance have applied directly to the Constitutional Court for orders declaring that the steps taken by the President to give effect to the Public Protector’s remedial action are unconstitutional. The Public Protector is joined as an interested party to the applications. The President has opposed what the DA and EFF have joined in seeking.
President Zuma has maintained his willingness to contribute to any increase in value to his property, objectively determined, as required by the Public Protector. He notes that the Public Protector accepts that only five aspects of the project give rise to a need for any determination – and that this determination still requires the proportion of the item and the reasonable cost to be established. The President also supports the need for finality in the matter of the Public Protector’s report. However, he believes and contends in his affidavits filed in court that the DA and the EFF have misinterpreted and/or are manipulating the Public Protector’s report for the purposes of political expediency.
To achieve an end to the drawn-out dispute in a manner that meets the Public Protector’s recommendations and is beyond political reproach, the President proposes that the determination of the amount he is to pay should be independently and impartially determined. Given the objection by one of the parties to the involvement of SAPS, as the Public Protector herself had required, the Auditor-General and Minister of Finance be requested by the court, through appropriate designees, to conduct the exercise directed by the Public Protector.
None of the EFF, the DA and the Public Protector have responded to the President’s proposal, which was made in his answering affidavit in November last year. It will now be for the court to decide if the offer is an appropriate basis for an order when the applications are argued on 9 February 2016.
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Issued by the Presidency