The ANC and it allies have come out with guns blazing following the Public Protector’s letter to President Zuma about his response to the recommendations she made in her report about the upgrades at Zuma’s Nkandla residence. The ruling party’s parliamentary spokesman, Moloto Mothapo said that while Thuli Madonsela, in her letter to President Zuma released to the media on Sunday, said the President had undermined the powers of her office, she in her turn, had done no better. He accused her of undermining the office of the President as well as parliamentary processes of the Republic. He added that, in doing this, the office of the Public Protector was setting a bad precedence in which it was placing itself above parliamentary processes.
The office of the Chief Whip of the ANC in parliament added its weight to the accusations against the South African Ombudsman by saying that the ad hoc committee on Nkandla had to be respected and allowed to do its work. He accused the Public Protector of being a parallel process to that of the ad hoc committee and questioned the legality thereof.
In her letter to President Zuma, Thuli Madonsela set aside the purported response that Jacob Zuma had presented to parliament on the 14th of August and said this did not, in the least, respond to her March report on the upgrades made to Nkandla, where an estimated R246 million was spent. She further said that she needed definite answers to the report as well as to the new questions she included in the letter within fourteen days in order that she includes them in a special report on the remedial action to be taken on Nkandla.
Commenting on the whole debacle and the public protector’s handling of the events, constitutional law expert, Pierre de Vos, speaking to the media, said that the letter that Thuli had written constituted the correct legal position on Nkandla that neither the President nor the Police Minister could afford to ignore or set aside. In addition, he said that the President’s August 14 response to parliament showed that the President may be receiving bad legal advice or he was just protecting himself by abusing his power in order to improperly benefit from the state. It is this parliamentary response that resulted in the EFF MPs chanting ” pay back the money”, which led to disruption in parliamentary proceedings. Another constitutional law expert, Paul Hoffman has also said that despite the fact that Madonsela’s letter is ‘couched in polite terms’, the President is obliged to respond. He added that Cabinet cannot overrule the Public Protector’s recommendations, they can only be set aside by a court of law. Other legal experts, however, caution that Zuma cannot necessarily be coerced by Madonsela to give a response. All Thuli can do, they advise, is to table her recommendations before parliament and advise members of parliament that Zuma is setting himself above the law. Another course of action that is open, they add, would be for another political party to take Zuma to court and claim that he is breaking the law, on public interest grounds, that is.