PUBLIC Protector Thuli Madonsela has hit back at the government’s handling of her Nkandla report, calling it "unlawful, unconstitutional" and in violation of the independence of her office.
Her statement on Monday is the latest salvo in an increasingly tense back-and-forth between Ms Madonsela and the ministers of police, public works, defence and state security over the release of her provisional report into R206m of security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla.
Ms Madonsela hit back at claims that she was unreasonable in not giving the ministers more time to read her report, saying she had been hauled before court before she could respond to their request.
She added that the reason she was fighting the court case was because it was not, in fact, only more time that the ministers wanted.
In their court application, the ministers sought to interdict Ms Madonsela from releasing the report to "affected, implicated and interested parties". Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa asked the court to give them until Friday to look at the report because it was "voluminous" and so far had revealed a "plethora of breaches of state security".
Ms Madonsela had earlier departed from her usual procedure and handed the report to the ministers in the security cluster to give them an opportunity to point to anything that could affect or compromise the security of the president.
She originally gave them until Wednesday last week and then, after a request for more time, until Friday. After a further request went unanswered, they went to court.
By seeking a week’s postponement to the court case, Ms Madonsela effectively gave the ministers the time they wanted. But court papers made it clear that, on top of more time, the ministers wanted a second bite: once their security concerns have been considered, they want a further look at the report and to be able, once again, to make written comments — all before it goes to the interested parties.
Ms Madonsela, in her statement, said she would clarify in court papers why this request was unlawful, unconstitutional and in breach of the independence of her office.
She said she had been reluctant to give more time because she was concerned that "leaving the report in the hands of the security cluster for an unduly extended period" would be prejudicial to those she had made "provisional adverse findings against and those she has quoted as having provided her with evidence".
Nor would it be in the public interest if the security cluster had "exclusive possession of the report", Ms Madonsela said. She had been in the process of reconsidering her position but was not given an opportunity to do so because she was given just one hour to respond.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it welcomed Ms Madonsela’s " strong stance".
"The behaviour of the ministers in the security cluster is indicative of the lengths that President Zuma and his Cabinet ministers will go to in burying the truth about the R200m of public money spent on the president’s private Nkandla home."
The DA said it would seek legal advice to ensure that the report is made public. The government was sending a clear message that Mr Zuma and those responsible "for this abuse of public money should be above the law", it said.