2 April 2014

South Africa: Zuma Responds to Nkandla Report

Johannesburg — The office of the African National Congress Chief Whip on Wednesday welcomed the response by President Jacob Zuma on Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report into upgrades at his Nkandla homestead.

"We are pleased with the president's response, as it indeed illustrates the seriousness with which he regards the matter and demonstrates a clearest intention to act," Chief Whip Stone Sizani said in a statement.

"The President's compliance with the stipulated deadline indeed reaffirms the governance's respect for the constitution and the laws of South Africa, including the institutions created to support our democracy such as the Public Protector."

He said as standard procedure, Parliament would table Zuma's response through the Announcements, Tabling and Committee reports for the information of MPs.

Earlier, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said Zuma would "comply with the law" in terms of the deadline imposed by Madonsela that the president respond to Parliament within 14 days of the release of her report, which was tabled on March 19.

In a statement on Wednesday announcing Madonsela's deadline had been met, the presidency said Zuma had noted in his response that three state agencies or institutions -- the Public Protector, the justice, crime prevention and security cluster of Cabinet, and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) -- had all probed the Nkandla upgrades.

"The president has decided that he will give a full and proper consideration to all the matters before him and, upon receipt of the SIU report, will provide Parliament with a further report on the decisive executive interventions that he would consider to be appropriate."

The presidency said Zuma remained concerned "about the allegations of maladministration and impropriety around procurement in the Nkandla project, in particular the allegations of cost inflation".

SIU spokesman Boy Ndala told Sapa on Wednesday that his unit's investigation was still ongoing and would be completed at the end of next month.

He said the status of the report -- shown on the SIU's website as "completed" -- was not correct.

"It's incorrect. Its status is still ongoing."

Asked when the report would be completed, he responded: "It's going to be at the end of May."

The status was changed on the website to "Ongoing" on Wednesday evening, after is was listed as "Completed" on Wednesday afternoon. The date on the report was still December 31, 2013.

On Wednesday, Parliament confirmed it had received "comments" from Zuma on the report.

However, opposition parties said Zuma's decision to wait until the SIU investigation was a delaying tactic and a way to avoid his responsibilities ahead of the election.

Freedom Front Plus Chief Whip Corne Mulder accused Zuma of this.

"If Zuma is so innocent and ignorant about the Nkandla issue as he alleges, he now had the ideal opportunity to prove his innocence in Parliament. He chooses not to do it," Mulder said.

He said it was "unthinkable" that South Africans would have to vote on May 7 with this "cloud hanging over the head of the president" who was the number one candidate of the ANC.

The Democratic Alliance said this was nothing more than a delaying tactic.

"This effectively means that an elected head of state is openly playing games with the Parliament which elected him; as well as the country's Public Protector, who is constitutionally empowered to take remedial action against him," DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said in a statement.

She said his decision to wait for the SIU report implied a lack of trust in Chapter Nine institutions.

Among the findings in Madonsela's report are that Zuma unduly benefited from the upgrades to his KwaZulu-Natal homestead, and that he should pay back a portion of the money.

Speaking during a door-to-door campaign in the Cape Town township of Gugulethu last Sunday, Zuma said he had not been told about the upgrades to his Nkandla home, which included a swimming pool, cattle kraal, chicken coop and amphitheatre.

"They did this without telling me... So why should I pay for something I did not ask for?" he reportedly told a local private television station at the time.

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