President Jacob Zuma’s lawyer has claimed that his client has always been prepared to pay back a portion of the public money spent on upgrading his Nkandla home if a proper mechanism was used to determine whether and how much he owed the state.
Michael Hulley said a settlement proposal made by Zuma in the Constitional Court case over Nkandla, was in line with what the president has maintained all along in the face of criticism that he has failed to implement Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings on the Nkandla
“That approach is consistent with what had been contained in the president’s affidavit wherein he sets out that he will adopt the findings of the Public Protector and in so far as there needs to be a mechanism which needs to be created to determine what is reasonable costs and consequently what would be a reasonable amount, if any, that the president ought then to pay,” Hulley said, according to a transcript of an interview released by the Presidency on Thursday.
Hulley went on to say, as Zuma did earlier this week, that Madonsela’s report on the R216 million security upgrade, contained no finding of wrongdoing on the president’s part.
“There has been no adverse finding made by the Public Protector that renders the president culpable on any matter.”
He added: “The president has always sought to implement the mechanism which would determine whether there’s an amount that he ought to pay in respect of the security features that have been implemented at his residence.”
Madonsela found that Zuma had derived undue benefit from the project that saw a swimming pool, cattle kraal, chicken run, amphitheatre and reception centre added to his home at taxpayer’s expense.
She directed that he reimburse the state a reasonable sum to be determined with the help of National Treasury and the police service, for these items which did not constitute security features.
Zuma left this in the hands of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, who found that each of the five additions in fact served a vital security purpose and that the president therefore did not owe the state a cent. Nhleko’s conclusion was muscled through Parliament by the ANC majority, with the minister saying he hoped this was the end of the Nkandla controversy.
Hulley defended this as a bid on Zuma’s part to ensure that he “doesn’t sit in judgement over what is in essence his own case”.
He said Zuma’s proposal this week that the process be repeated by the Auditor-General and finance minister was another attempt to create an independent mechanism “which would aid and assist if the court deems it necessary in determining what the audited expenditure was and what the audited contribution then would be that the President ought to pay”.
He added that, if the court confirmed the draft order to this effect that Zuma submitted, the president “would abide by whatever amount has been determined by the Auditor-General and the Treasury official and he commits himself to that payment”.
Hulley sketched the bitter political opposition to the adoption of Nhleko’s findings, which prompted the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters to go to court to force Zuma to comply with Madonsela’s directives, as a spat over process while the president sought to find ways to heighten public accountability.
“I think where the variance has been as to what that process must be and who would be engaged in that process. We’ve had various commentaries about the role that the minister of police has played and so on and so forth.”
The DA has rejected Zuma’s offer as another attempt by the president to deviate from the remedial action Madonsela ordered and said it would proceed with argument in the case. The party noted that Madonsela did not call for any involvement from the Auditor-General.
The EFF has also said that they would will not be part of any agreement on the Nkandla matter if that deal does not affirm the powers of the office of the Public Protector and uphold the Constitution.
The case is set down for Tuesday.[Source: IOL]