Zuma blames Public Works department for Nkandla scandal

President Jacob Zuma on Friday night absolved himself from the soaring costs of upgrades to his private home — instead pointing the finger at the Department of Public Works.

“I did not act dishonestly or with any personal knowledge of the irregularities by the Department of Public Works with regards to the Nkandla project‚” he said‚ in a live television address.

“I have agreed to pay for the identified items once a determination is made.

“The judgment has been very helpful. There are lessons to be learnt for all of us in government‚ which augur well for governments in the future.

“The Nkandla project brought sharply into focus the problems with government’s supply chain project.”

Zuma said the gross inflation of pricing that pushed up costs should never have been allowed.

In defence of the president‚ Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi has previously exonerated Zuma by saying the president did not ask for the upgrades and was not briefed on any of the costs involved. He took full responsibility for the project.

Pledge to respect for Constitution and Public Protector

“It puts an end to any other interpretation of this matter.”

“This is a groundbreaking judgment with regard to the powers of the public protector‚” he said‚ thanking the court for providing clarity on Chapter 9 institutions.

“I respect the judgment and will abide by it.

“I will pay an amount towards the Nkandla non-security upgrades once this has been determined by the correct authority.”

He said he also had never intended to not honour the Public Protector’s remedial actions.

The court also condemned the “illegality” of Zuma’s conduct in failing to comply with the remedial action set out by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in her 2014 report titled “Secure in Comfort”.

Zuma was not in the position to simply ignore Madonsela’s findings and should also not have decided to have the issue investigated by police minister Nathi Nhleko.

“[Zuma] did not challenge the [public protector’s] report through a judicial process. He appears to have been content with the apparent vindication of his position by the [Police] Minister’s favourable recommendations and considered himself to have been lawfully absolved of liability‚” Mogoeng said.

In reaction to the judgment‚ the Democratic Party leader Mmusi Maimane reopened his party’s efforts to impeach the president in Parliament and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema called for an early election‚ saying Zuma and the MPs who defended him had failed the electorate. The next general election is only scheduled for 2019.

“I can assure South Africans the process will be transparent and professional‚” Gordhan said.

“Where appropriate I will consult with the public protector and any other stakeholders to help us... execute our mandate.”

The Treasury must report back to the court on this cost in 60 days and Zuma must “personally pay back” the money within 45 days following that report‚ according to the court order.

Meanwhile‚ Gordhan said his ministry would try to assist the Public Protector following her request to the Treasury for R3 million more funding‚ in particular to investigate increasing complaints her office has received regarding the Gupta family‚ who are accused of improper influence over government due to the close relationship with Zuma and his family.

Gordhan said normal processes needed to be followed. “Any additional funding that is required within a fiscal year‚ certainly before September … we will then have to have discussions with the Department of Justice to see whether they could trim some of the other expenditure to find the R3m‚” Gordhan said. “But we would like to be as helpful as we can.”

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