3 December 2012

South Africa: President Zuma?s Protection of Joemat-Pettersson Is Fishy

press release

The Presidency today stated that it is busy processing the final report by the Public Protector into Tina Joemat-Pettersson's "Costly Moves". It also denied that it knew of the President's request to recall the Minister from Sweden (at a cost of R400 000 to the public purse) to attend to urgent state business.

Minister Joemat-Pettersson is guilty of violating the Executive Ethics Code, but seems to be escaping any real consequences for her actions.

The Minister spent R1.6 million on hotel stays in one year alone, including R400 000 for 28 days at one B&B. Yet in October 2011, President Jacob Zuma fired the late Minister Sicelo Shiceka after the Public Protector found that his R840 000 stays at the One & Only in Cape Town and trips to Switzerland constituted a violation of the Executive Ethics Act.

This raises questions about the protection that Minister Joemat-Pettersson seems to be enjoying from President Zuma.

The Public Protector recommended that Minister Joemat-Pettersson be reprimanded by the President. But, when explaining the expenditure of R249 855 for herself and two officials and R151 878 for her children and au pair on an early return flight from Sweden, the Minister pleaded that she had been "recalled by the presidency" for urgent business. The President can hardly be expected to reprimand her for something that he ordered.

During the Public Protector's initial investigation, Minister Joemat-Pettersson did not reveal the nature of the urgent business for which she was recalled. The final report indicates that the Minister returned to help President Zuma organise his wedding to Tobeka Madiba - and specifically to assist dignitaries and VIP guests "with regard to the importation of prescribed goods that they required during their stay in South Africa at the time."

This bizarre situation underlines the thoroughly entrenched state of impunity amongst the president's inner circle. The late Minister Sicelo Shiceka was fired relatively swiftly for very similar offences.

Was this punishment meted out only because he was not strongly enough aligned to the President?

In May 2011, Sicelo Shiceka was in trouble with the ANC because his department repeatedly recognised DA-run municipalities as outstanding models of service delivery. The President himself chose to denounce one of his own departments in an effort to win votes, stating bluntly that the reports of the Department of Cooperative Governance on service delivery at municipal level were "false."

Minister Joemat-Pettersson, on the other hand, is clearly thoroughly committed to driving the ANC's political agenda. She has welcomed the unrest in rural communities in the Western Cape, rather than addressing the underlying causes of discord. She seems to be on Zuma's campaign team for Mangaung, with her Department contributing generously to Zuma's charm offensive through the Masibambisane Rural Development scheme. And she maintains a cosy relationship with Premier Fisheries, the company run by Iqbal Survé - a businessman thought to have a close relationship with the President.

In the new year, I will put a motion to the National Assembly proposing that Minister Joemat-Pettersson be fired immediately.

President Zuma cannot be allowed to shield his political allies from the consequences of their actions.

Annette Steyn, Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

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