JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's public protector has refused to immediately release a report on her investigation into allegations that public funds of Rand 206 million (about $21 million) were improperly used to improve the private home of President Jacob Zuma.
Thuli Madonsela, whose position of public protector is the equivalent of an ombudsman, responded to calls from the ruling party, the African National Congress, to release her report on the money spent on Zuma's home, after some details of the report were leaked.
The controversy over the funds spent on Zuma's home has become a pressing issue for the president. Following the publication at the weekend of details from a leaked copy of Madonsela's provisional report, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday called on her to release the full report.
Saying the alliance was disturbed by what he called a trend of calculated leaks from the public protector's office, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters: "As the ANC, we ... demand that the final report, not leaked snippets, is released to the public with immediate effect by the office of the public protector."
In response Madonsela said at a news conference in Pretoria Wednesday that the final report could not be released because it has not been finished. The report will probably be released by mid-January, she said.
She denied that her office had leaked the report. She said she sent five electronic copies of a draft provisional report to five Cabinet ministers who deal with security and that one minister had been given a protected password to share with the others. A copy had also been given to a judge on a confidential basis, she said.
Madonsela said her office would not benefit in any way from postponing the report or leaking it to the media, adding that a leak would undermine an informed dialogue of that report as well as minimize the impact. She said it made no sense to leak the report when her office needed more time to complete the report and asked that her office be "given the space to handle this matter with integrity".
The ANC said on Tuesday that if the final report were to be released just before the general elections next year, it would be regarded as an act of political maneuvering on the part of the public protector.