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Fight to declassify Nkandla report

Legal experts & the DA have questioned whether the classification is valid under law.

The upgraded Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal, which allegedly cost more than R200 million to upgrade. Picture: City Press.

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN - Corruption Watch said the decision to classify an investigative report into Nkandla as top secret shows how the Protection of State Information Bill will be used to stop citizens knowing how their money is being spent.

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi told Parliament on Thursday the report on the R206 million security upgrade to President Jacob Zuma's home had been declared top secret and will not be made public.

He told Parliament this means he would not even be able to give copies of the report to the Auditor-General or the Public Protector, who are also meant to be investigating the issue.

The ministry has refused to explain its reasons for the decision.

Corruption Watch head David Lewis said this decision cannot be justified.

"We don't believe this is a legally sustainable position. The difficulty of course is that it may start to become better supported once the Protection of State Information Bill is passed."

UCT law professor Pierre de Vos agrees and said the guideline adopted by cabinet says a document can only be classified as top secret when it's going to lead to war, sanctions and uprisings.

De Vos said government will fail if it tried to prosecute someone for publishing the document.

DA FIGHTS FOR DECLASSIFICATION

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) is taking its fight to have the report declassified to two ministers.

DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko will write to Nxesi and State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele asking them why they want to hide the report from the public.

Mazibuko said the public has a right to know what's in the report.

"Parliament can't be used as a place to go and bury the report."

The report will go before the multi-party Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence.

Committee chairman and ANC MP Cecil Burgess did not want to comment until he viewed the document, but was thus far unhappy about suggestions the report would be buried.

Burgess said the committee will consider the report when Parliament resumes in late July after its winter recess.

The DA and legal experts have questioned whether the classification is valid under law.

The report was classified in terms of the Minimum Information Security Standards policy.

They're saying this is cabinet policy and not a law of general application.