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Madonsela: Zuma 'improperly benefitted' from upgrade

The Public Protector has released her highly anticipated Nkandla report.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela releases the findings of her Nkandla report during a press conference in Pretoria on 19 March 2014. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has released the eagerly anticipated Nkandla report at Public Protector House in Pretoria on Wednesday afternoon.

She found President Jacob Zuma "improperly benefited" from measures implemented "in the name of security".

The protector called on the president to pay back a "reasonable part" of the upgrades, which do not constitute security.

A graph contained inside the Nkandla report compares the spending of past presidents. Picture: EWN.

Madonsela also found Zuma misled Parliament, but made an honest bona fide (good faith) mistake.

She substantiated claims that what happened at Nkandla amounted to "opulence at a grand scale".

Madonsela said she estimated the cost of Nkandla upgrades to now be at R246 million.

She also found Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and others, guilty of improper conduct and maladministration.

An aerial view of Nkandla taken in August 2013 which was taken by an aerial mapping company using a hi-tech, high-altitude mapping aircraft.

A 2010 aerial view of Nkandla taken off Google Earth.

FINDINGS

The Public Protector said state officials had "failed dismally" to follow supply chain management, which resulted in "scope creep".

"President Zuma's immediate family members benefitted improperly. He should have applied his mind to upgrades and asked questions about them."

Her report has adverse findings against the South African Police Service, Department of Defence and the Department of Public Works.

"The excessive expenditure added significant value to the president's private property."

Madonsela further found that things such as the helipad and clinic should have been built in a way to benefit the community.

She further charged the main "money guzzlers" were not the security upgrades, but the private ones.

She slammed Zuma's architect, saying he was the tail that wagged the government dog.

Madonsela asked why a private architect became the de facto project manager as he was the "go-between".

Architect Minenhle Makhanya allegedly made R16,5 million from the project, the protector revealed.

She said low-level officials may have been intimidated by the architect who had a direct line to Zuma.

The protector added government created a "licence to loot situation".

While delivering her findings, she used words such as "excessive" and "unconscionable" to describe the spending.

Madonsela has given Zuma two weeks to respond.

She recommended that ministers involved in the debacle be reprimanded.

HUGE REACTION EXPECTED

A flood of reaction is likely to follow the release of the report, with the most important to watch how government and the ANC respond to the findings.

The ANC believes the report is a "political one" while the Institute for Security Studies says ignoring it will weaken the country's democracy.

The institute's Judith February said, "If those in power ignore her findings that's a serious undermining of the Constitution and of our constitutional democracy."

Echoing February's statements, Constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos said the Public Protector's office must be respected.

"You can criticise the judgement of the Public Protector based on the law or on the interpretation of the facts. What you can't do is attack the integrity of Madonsela."

The release of the report was described as a major test for South Africa and its democracy, with government and the ANC being urged to act on the findings.

A leaked copy of the interim report called on Zuma to not only account to Parliament but to pay back some of the money.

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