LETTERS of reprimand from President Jacob Zuma to Cabinet ministers involved in the overspending at Nkandla were delivered last week, sparking outrage from opposition parties, which described them as “useless” and “a joke”.
The Constitutional Court ordered last month that Mr Zuma comply with remedial action in the public protector’s 2014 report into overspending on security upgrades at his private Nkandla residence. The action included that he “reprimand the ministers involved for the appalling manner in which the Nkandla project was handled and state funds were abused”.
The letters were delivered on Wednesday to Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, former police minister Nathi Mthethwa and former public works minister Geoff Doidge.
“The Constitutional Court has affirmed the direction by the public protector, amongst others, that I am required to reprimand the ministers involved in the Nkandla project, for what the public protector termed ‘the appalling manner in which the Nkandla project was handled and state funds were abused’,” the letters, signed by Mr Zuma, read.
“Pursuant to the latter I hereby deliver the reprimand required.”
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s spokesman Oupa Segalwe said on Sunday that she had no view on the adequacy of the letters, “except to say this is a matter for Parliament to deal with”.
In a statement on Friday, the Presidency announced that the letters had been sent, and added that an inter-departmental committee had been established to update the 2003 Cabinet policy on security measures and to draft clear standards on the reasonable costs that could be incurred.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Sunday described the letters as “a joke” and “another insult to the public”. Party leader Mmusi Maimane said the reprimands should have been a “severe rebuke”, and specific in nature. The DA was seeking legal advice on whether they constituted an adequate reprimand as envisioned by the public protector.
Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution executive secretary Lawson Naidoo said there was no precedent for such letters, but “one would have expected that they would have contained more detail of the purpose of the reprimand”.
United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa described the letters as “an exercise in futility”, because they were not a punishment.
Congress of the People president Mosiuoa Lekota said the letters demonstrated Mr Zuma’s contempt for the Constitution.
“One would have expected that the people reprimanded were made to stand in the house and be reprimanded in front of Parliament and the nation,” he said.
Economic Freedom Fighters spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi described the reprimand as “useless”, and said his party’s position remained that Mr Zuma and his Cabinet should resign.