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Madonsela & ANC war of words rages on

The public protector says she is concerned by 'unwarranted attacks' against her.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has hit back at the African National Congress (ANC), saying she is deeply concerned by what she calls "unwarranted and baseless attacks" against her by the ruling party over her handling of the Nkandla issue.

Overnight, the ANC said it was outraged that Madonsela had written to President Jacob Zuma and told him he had not properly complied with her findings and that he should repay some of the money government spent on his Nkandla home.

Madonsela sent President Zuma a strongly-worded seven-page letter demanding to know when he would pay back some of the money spent on upgrades at his private home in KwaZulu-Natal and requested his response within 14 days.

Parts of the letter were made public yesterday.

The public protector said Zuma's refusal to adhere to her recommendations could breed a culture of impunity in the state.

In her latest statement, Madonsela says these attacks on her by the ANC are extraordinary and that the various parties should respect the Constitution.

She also hit back at the ANC's claims that she is not properly neutral on this issue and says she deals with all complaints consistently.

The public protector says that in Zuma's purported response to her findings, he specifically says that he is not giving a critique of her report and that he offers no comment on its contents.

She also says that nowhere in her letter does she tell Parliament what to do and that she considers attempts by various parties to instruct her office on how to operate as interference.

Madonsela argues that Zuma himself has said that he does not provide a critique of her report and that he offers no comment on its contents.

The Nkandla upgrades came under heavy criticism in a report by Madonsela in March. Madonsela's report said Zuma had "benefitted unduly" from some of the upgrades, which included a cattle enclosure and amphitheatre, and that he should pay back some of the costs of the unnecessary renovations.

At the same time, the ANC's Zizi Kodwa says the letter to the president should never have been made public.

"The report that we read about yesterday is private correspondence between her office and the office of the president. That correspondence was leaked to the media. We think that on its own is ethically wrong."

Kodwa says the ANC's Members of Parliament will act with the best interests of the country at heart when Parliament's ad-hoc committee on Nkandla meets.

"ANC members in the committee will make a decision on what is right for the country, not just what is right for the ANC and that is a mandate they carry to the committees."

The tripartite alliance has accused Madonsela of undermining Parliament and says it is not up to her to decide if the president's response is sufficient.

The president was ushered out of the National Assembly last week amid chants of 'pay back the money' by the Economic Freedom Fighters, whose leader Julius Malema demanded that Zuma commit to a date.