South Africa’s ANC Accuses Graft Ombudsman of Plot to Taint Zuma

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said Thuli Madonsela, the nation’s graft ombudsman, is waging a politically motivated campaign to taint the image of President Jacob Zuma and the party ahead of elections next year.

The accusation follows the Nov. 29 publication of findings from a draft report compiled by Madonsela’s office in the Johannesburg-based Mail and Guardian newspaper, which alleged that taxpayers’ money was misspent on renovating Zuma’s private home. The report has prompted a public outcry, including petitions for Zuma to be impeached.

Madonsela’s failure to release the final report “can only be construed as a delaying tactic and a political ploy to create negativity around the image and the integrity of the President of the ANC and the African National Congress itself,” the party’s Secretary General Gwede Mantashe told reporters in Johannesburg today.

According to the Mail & Guardian report, Madonsela found the upgrade to Zuma’s home in Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal province, extended beyond required security features to include the construction of a swimming pool, amphitheatre and houses for Zuma’s relatives. While the government estimates that 208 million rand ($20 million) was spent on the renovation, the newspaper said the cost had escalated to 215 million rand from an initial projection of 27 million rand.

Information Leaks

“We have noticed a trend of leaks of information of reports that have not been finalized and we are concerned about this,” ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte told reporters. “If someone is going to leak a report why not the whole thing? There were very carefully selected snippets of the report that were leaked. Normally when there is such a leakage someone would go ballistic. She seemed a bit comfortable.”

Madonsela denied the allegations and will issue a statement tomorrow to respond to party’s accusations, Kgalalelo Msibi, a spokeswoman for her office, said in a phone interview today.

The ANC, which has said Zuma wasn’t involved in any wrongdoing, called on Madonsela to urgently release her final report so that those who designed and made decisions on the security features at the president’s home be questioned.

“These experts must explain their decisions, to ensure all queries the public may have are tabled and responded to exhaustively,” Mantashe said.

Madonsela said in a statement yesterday she was concerned by the leaking of information from provisional reports and pledged to step up security, including only providing partial information to those cited in the report.

“We work with sensitive information for months without any leakages,” she said. “It cannot be a coincidence that the so-called leaks only occur after the reports leave our offices into the hands of the parties.”

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