Hands off the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

THERE is a cer­tain struc­tural logic to some ar­gu­ments ad­vanced by the Joint Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence in its re­port tabled this week on the R206 mil­lion “se­cu­rity” up­grad­ing of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s homestead and sur­rounds at Nkandla.

It un­folds, ba­si­cally, like this: the con­sti­tu­tion re- quires we look af­ter the se­cu­rity of the pres­i­dent. The pres­i­dent has de­cided to build his Xanadu in the bad­lands of Nkandla in ru­ral KwaZulu-Natal where there is no proper health­care; roads have been ne­glected for decades; wa­ter can­not be guar­an­teed fit for hu­man con­sump­tion; and so on.

As gov­ern­ment is con­strained to do, it will build a hos­pi­tal; it will pro­vide he­li­pads for un­pot­holed ac­cess; it will pro­vide the pres­i­dent and his ex­tended fam­ily and hon­oured guests with clean wa­ter… Oh, and since the land he has ac­quired is in­ad­e­quate for the big­gest ur­ban plan­ning project the area has ever seen, the gov­ern­ment will buy nearly twice as much land again to house all th­ese se­cu­rity pro­vi­sions the con­sti­tu­tion con­strains us to im­ple­ment.

Give or take some cost over­runs pegged at close to 300 per­cent of the thresh­old de­clared ac­cept­able by Trea­sury in some con­tracts; give or take the odd fail- ure to per­form any se­cu­rity vet­ting of con­trac­tors, that is the whole story as uncovered by a task team which ini­tially probed the mat­ter and whose re­port the com­mit­tee con­sid­ered.

Or so the com­mit­tee – mi­nus two DA mem­bers who walked out – would have us be­lieve.

We would ar­gue that this men­da­cious re­port begs more ques­tions than it an­swers.

It un­der­lines just how im­por­tant is is for our democ­racy that we have the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor as an in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tion and how re­gret­table it is that the rul­ing party and the se­cu­rity min­is­ters opted to butt heads with Thuli Madon­sela, who is man­dated to probe just such press­ing is­sues of pub- lic in­ter­est with­out in­ter­fer­ence from the ex­ec­u­tive, and to do so with­out fear or favour.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.