Hands off the Public Protector
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.