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Madonsela: Nkandla upgrades done cowboy style

The protector says spending was so "excessive & obscene" that no single human could pay it back.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela attended the Nkandla Discussion at Wits University on 20 March 2014. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's private Nkandla residence were done "cowboy style", Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Thursday.

She said spending was so "excessive" and "obscene" that no single human being could pay back the entire amount.

The protector was speaking at a special Eyewitness News /University of the Witwatersrand discussion on her Nkandla report.

Madonsela on Wednesday released her much-anticipated report on the over R200 million upgrades following a two-year long investigation.

Her report found Zuma and his family benefitted from the upgrades and called on the president to account to Parliament within two weeks.

She said government failed to exercise power within the law and in the public interest.

Speaking in Johannesburg on Thursday, Madonsela explained why she called on Zuma to pay back only a portion of the money spent.

"What was done there is so excessive and obscene financially, that one human being wouldn't be able to pay it back.

"Everything was done cowboy style."

She said she hopes the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe will dig deeper.

Madonsela also pointed out the role of Zuma's private architect Minenhle Makhanya, who allegedly received R16,5 million from the controversial project.

"Instead of the chef cooking the food that had been agreed to, he started designing new menus."

The public protector said gaps in government policy must be plugged as soon as possible.

"If the officials stuck to those rules, they would never have extended privileges to the president that he doesn't deserve."

Meanwhile, the ANC says it will not hold a special National Executive Committee meeting to discuss the matter.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the inter-ministerial investigation and the public protector's probe are similar with the same suggested correctional measures.

He maintains anyone found guilty of maladministration will be disciplined.

"All public office bearers or officials involved in maladministration must be brought to book and all funds that were acquired inappropriately must be recovered."

ZUMA AVOIDS REPORT

Zuma refrained from commenting on the public protector's report in public for a second time since its release.

The president addressed an ANC election campaign event in Tlokwe in the North West where he received a rapturous welcome.

He used the opportunity to reflect on what he called the "good story" the ANC had to tell.

Zuma appeared exhausted and struggled to keep up with the celebratory mood.

Not once did he refer to the Nkandla report but when other speakers from the ANC Women's League and South African Communist Party slated Madonsela, he chuckled on stage.

Zuma said the ANC delivered services to its people.

"We have the energy and imagination to move forward."

The North West ANC says no other South African president has ever succeeded in being so in touch with its people like Zuma.

EFF,DA CHARGES

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has accused Zuma of blatant political interference in the operation of government, which resulted in the massive upgrades to his homestead.

A 2010 aerial view of Nkandla taken off Google Earth.

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

He was speaking to his supporters outside the Sunnyside police station in Pretoria after laying criminal charges against the president.

A case of fraud, corruption, theft of public money and racketeering has been opened.

Malema said Zuma's conduct amounts to a clear case of political interference.

"Zuma is a politician and when he gives a person a project without a tender, he is interfering with the procurement policy."

He said this cannot be tolerated.

"We cannot allow a situation where there was unlawful usage of our money and there was unlawful awarding of tenders."

He called on Zuma to resign and for police to arrest and prosecute him.

Earlier, the Democratic Alliance (DA) also laid charges against the president at the Nkandla police station in KwaZulu-Natal.

The party's visit was accompanied by a heavy security presence, with a large contingent deployed to the village.

The charges against Zuma relate to the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act as well as defeating the ends of justice.

The delegation included DA Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane, federal chairperson Wilmot James, youth leader Mbali Ntuli, DA KawZulu-Natal leader Sizwe Mchunu and provincial chair Haniff Hoosen.

Eight charges were laid by the delegation.

Maimane described the upgrades as an outright abuse of office.

"Never in my life have I faced such a complete abuse of state privilege. As South Africans, we should all be completely disturbed."

He said schools and houses for the poor had been traded to build Zuma's home.

REACTION TO THE REPORT

Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota has strongly criticised Zuma for what he calls the abuse of tax money.

He described the release of the public protector's report as one of the saddest moments since the advent of democracy nearly 20 years ago.

Lekota also accused the ruling party of mismanaging the country's resources.

Cope also plans to consult constitutional law experts and closely study the findings of the Nkandla document.

The party emphasised it is not the time for political point scoring, but rather ensuring the country's interests are well served.

Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel says he believes Madonsela did a thorough job.

"There will be some questions raised about some of the findings but we must allow that process to continue."

Meanwhile, Corruption Watch's David Lewis and political analyst Steven Friedman warned that South Africans must protect the office of the public protector over the coming months.

Click here to view the full Nkandla report.

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