Rowan Philip
4 minute read
30 Nov 2013

How Zuma added costs – Calls for severe sanctions follow leak of Madonsela’s Nkandla report

Rowan Philip

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma cost taxpayers about R180 million by personally ensuring that the Nkandla upgrade work went to his friends — but scored R20 million-worth of goodies for himself in the deal...

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma cost taxpayers about R180 million by personally ensuring that the Nkandla upgrade work went to his friends — but scored R20 million-worth of goodies for himself in the deal.

And “political interference” by the president forced the Department of Public Works to use four contractors he liked, in building “security” features at his private residence like a swimming pool, a kraal and houses for relatives.

These were among the sensational findings of the Public Protector’s provisional report on Nkandla, according to the Mail & Guardian, following the leak of key features of the investigation into the R215 million “security upgrade”.

Yesterday, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko led a chorus of shocked reaction from opposition figures and civil society, stating: “It is becoming increasingly clear that President Zuma is at the centre of one of the biggest corruption scandals in democratic South Africa.”

Mazibuko said that, “if accurate”, the findings should result in “the most severe sanction of President Jacob Zuma’s conduct”, including an investigation into constitutional breeches.

The Public Protector herself reportedly recommended an unprecedented punishment for a South African president: that Zuma not only be ordered to repay millions in “substantial” personal benefits from the upgrade, but that Parliament hold him “to account” for failing to protect state resources.

Kgalalelo Masibi, spokesperson for Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, protested the leak, saying “publishing such reports is unethical and unlawful”, and adding: “As a rule, we do not comment on whatever purports to be a provisional report of the Public Protector”.

However, Madonsela did not deny the revelations yesterday.

According to the Mail & Guardian investigative unit AmaBhungane, Madonsela’s yet-to-be-released provisional report reveals that Zuma’s personal instructions caused the cost of the project to balloon from an initial cost of R27 million to the final cost of R215 million.

The initial government assessment of R27 million for normal security upgrades to Nkandla would have been in line with previous upgrades to the residences of other presidents, the most expensive of which was R32 million to Nelson Mandela’s residence.

Instead, the Public Protector reportedly found that it was, above all, Zuma’s insistence that his private architect, Minenhle Makhanya, be the “principle agent” for the department on the project that led to the cost leaping to over 800% of what was necessary.

It found that the “uncontrolled creep” in the ambition and costs on the project followed a “conflict” for Makhanya, in which his brief to satisfy his private client, Zuma, overrode his department mandate to keep costs down. In addition, his fees were improperly calculated as a percentage of the overall cost.

Madonsela’s report found that, under Makhanya’s direction, the cost for underground bunkers and sheltered walkways boomed from the initial R500 000 to R8 million.

Last week, The Witness exclusively revealed that Makhanya, who was paid at least R16 million in fees for work at Nkandla, is a part-time pig farmer, who operates his architecture practice from a run-down residential property in Pinetown with no reception area, and with sagging perimeter walls.

In addition, the report found that the department appointed the same quantity surveyor, engineering firm and building contractor who had each done previous private work at Nkandla, without tenders, on the understanding that the president personally wanted them.

In addition, the newspaper reportedly found that Zuma took steps to exclude any other firms, and quoted an official’s statement that Zuma “personally indicated that he does not want other contractors on site”.

Meanwhile, Madonsela reportedly found that Zuma should repay a “reasonable” amount for the money spent on relocating and housing relatives at Nkandla.

The M&G investigation found that, in 2010, department officials warned that “nice-to-have” items that were not essential to security were going up at the private residence.

They also claim that government heads rolled, or officials were reassigned, for challenging improvements to Nkandla that had nothing to do with security.

A press release issued for the security cluster ministries, which have sought to block the release of the report, stated that the Mail & Guardian’s report triggered a meeting of cluster ministers yesterday.

Despite the long list of non-security related improvements reportedly exposed by the Protector, the government said the government stood by its earlier claim that Zuma did not benefit a single cent. However, the ministries admitted “irregularities” had occurred.

The release stated: “[The cluster’s own] investigation established, among other things, that no state funds had been spent on improving President Jacob Zuma’s private houses at Nkandla. Government maintains its view that while the security upgrades were justified, the manner in which the Department of Public Works handled the matter was inappropriate. The government investigation found there had been a number of irregularities in the appointment of service providers and the procurement of goods and services.”