S.African watchdog hits out at state over Zuma probe

S.African watchdog hits out at state over Zuma probe
# 21 November 2013 01:19 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. South Africa's state ombudsman on Wednesday hit out at an "unprecedented" bid to stop the release of a probe into a controversial upgrade to President Jacob Zuma's private home, APA reports quoting AFP.

Four ministers, seen as Zuma loyalists, went to court to halt graft-buster Thuli Madonsela's report into the state-funded, 206-million-rand ($20-million, 15-million-euro) security revamp of Zuma's rural home.

Madonsela told journalists that the ministers had sought to vet her report by asking "a court to step in and tell me what to throw out and what to retain".

This was "at odds" with South Africa's constitution and other legislation, said Madonsela, whose title is "public protector".

Madonsela handed her top-secret findings over to be reviewed by the ministers for any security breaches before she could release it to the public.

But that move triggered what she described as "unprecedented" events that saw her hauled to the courts.

"Not in my wildest dream did I ever think we would end up in court," she said.

She said she now regretted having shared the findings after events took an "adversarial turn".

The government's decision to spend large sums of taxpayer money on Zuma's private property sparked public anger amid an economic crunch in a country where 10 million people live on social grants and many have only tin shacks for their homes.

The security upgrade to Zuma's thatched-roof compound in Nkandla in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal included a helipad, underground bunkers, fencing and a clinic.

Madonsela said she had "unfettered power and responsibility to investigate, make findings, report and remedy administrative wrongs in all state affairs".

She stressed that no government official was allowed to interfere with her work or office, which has full subpoena, search and seizure powers.

The ministers who fought the release of Madonsela's report included those in charge of state security, police and defence.

The group argued that they went to court because they needed more time to respond to the findings.

They later dropped the court action after the interdict gave a few days' breathing space for a response to be filed.

The ministers have now submitted their security concerns to Madonsela and her office will make alterations where deemed fit, she said.

The provisional report could be out in a month's time.