By Richard Poplak and Ranjeni Munusasamy
The South African Public Protector’s office has found President Jacob Zuma guilty of ethical violations regarding the security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.
As the report notes, “(Zuma’s) failure to act in protection of state resources constitutes a violation of … the executive ethics code.”
This, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela says, “is inconsistent with his office as a member of Cabinet, as contemplated by section 96 of the Constitution”. It is a devastating report of a presidency gone awry.
In her comprehensive report on the so-called “Nkandla Project”, released to the press during a media lock-up at the Public Protector’s office in Hatfield, Pretoria, yesterday morning, Madonsela made devastating findings against Zuma, the Ministers of Police, Public Works, the former Minister and Deputy Minister of Public Works, officials of Public Works, Police and the Department of Defence.
In short, the report is an indictment of a presidential project that spun massively out of control.
The document’s release should have sizeable implications on the elections scheduled for May 7.
The 443-page report, which collates interviews and thousands of pages of documents, reveals a mess of improper conduct, ethical violations and maladministration that stretch all the way to the Presidency.
The Public Protector found that Zuma’s role was “that of the ultimate guardian of the resources of the people of South Africa”.
“I believe the President should have ideally asked questions regarding the scale, cost, and affordability of the Nkandla Project,” Madonsela stated.
In language that was often frank and occasionally brutal, the report insisted that:
“The President is to take steps with the assistance of the National Treasury and the SAPS (South African Police Service) to pay back a reasonable percentage of the costs that do not relate to security.”
These include, “the visitor’s centre, the amphitheater, the cattle kraal and the chicken run, the swimming pool.”
Madonsela also instructed Zuma to “reprimand the ministers involved for the appalling manner in which the Nkandla Project was handled and state funds were abused.”
She said that he should “report to the National Assembly on his comments and actions on this report within 14 days”.
While it is currently impossible to know what measures Zuma and the ANC will take with regard to these recommendations, the report left no doubt about the scale of the malfeasance.
In summary of Jacob Zuma’s ethical violations, the report noted that, “The implementation of the Nkandla Project leaves one with the impression of excessive and unconscionable “Rolls Royce” security constituting an island in a sea of poverty and paucity of public infrastructure.
“This cannot be accepted as conscionable in any state and certainly not any state where section 195 and 237 of the Constitution promise to put people first and where the Batho Pele White Paper undertakes to transform the state from the insular apartheid state into one is people centred and puts people first.”
A graph in the middle of the report compares the residences of past presidents, including apartheid leaders PW Botha and FW De Klerk, and finds that Nkandla is far and away the most expensive upgrade in South African history.
Where Botha’s upgrades cost roughly M20 million at current rates, and Thabo Mbeki’s M8 million, Zuma’s upgrades stand at M241 million.
Madonsela stated that the final costs would run up to R246 million.
The bulletproof glass installation alone cost M3 million, and the in situ clinic — which in Nelson Mandela’s case was designed as a mobile clinic — has cost M11 million so far.