Nkandla architect's lawyer wants it all

2014-09-07 15:00

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In a move echoing President Jacob Zuma’s famed “Stalingrad defence” in his corruption trial, his architect, Minenhle Makhanya, this week launched his own street-by-street battle to avoid handing over R155?million to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Makhanya’s legal team have given the SIU until Tuesday to hand over every piece of paper it looked at in drafting its Pietermaritzburg High Court action against him in the opening salvo of what his lawyer, BarnabasXulu, this week described as a “very long journey” through the courts.

But if the SIU doesn’t hand over all the documents, Xulu will apply to have the case struck off the roll.

“We are in for a very long journey if they persist with this kind of claim. Procedurally, if the SIU fails to furnish us with requested documents, we will be entitled to apply for a strikeout.

“That might lead us to the shortest journey, but right now let’s wait and see how they respond,” said Xulu.

Makhanya would not be able to formulate a defence against the SIU claim – or even plead – until he has been able to study all the material his accusers used

in drawing up their charges against him, said Xulu.

While he refused to discuss the details of Makhanya’s defence, Xulu is likely to put every piece of evidence looked at by the SIU and all the paperwork involved in the Nkandla process from June 2009 until last December under the microscope.

Xulu, who is one of the founders of the Jacob Zuma Trust, which funded the president’s defence during his corruption and rape trials, is also set to put every participant in the process – including Cabinet ministers – on the stand.

Xulu has not only requested all the material the SIU worked through in its probe of the R261?million upgrade of the president’s private home at Nxamalala, Nkandla, but its final report, which has been given to Zuma but is yet to be made public.

The 40 sets of documents Xulu has asked for in terms of a notice filed in the Pietermaritzburg High Court this week also include the security measures requested by the SA Police Service and the SA National Defence Force in their assessments of Zuma’s security needs. The security establishment has opposed the release of any of this detail in the past and is likely to continue to do so.

Xulu also wants sight of all Cabinet memorandums, minutes of every planning meeting and all instructions signed off by all former and sitting Cabinet members involved in the implementation of the department of public works’ prestige portfolio projects between June 2009 and last December.

The SIU is unlikely to be able to present Xulu with all the documents he wants by Tuesday and will at the very least ask for an extension. The unit’s spokesperson, Boy Ndala, said a response was being prepared but declined to comment further.

Xulu said this week’s notice was the first instalment of a lengthy defence.

“This is the first stage of this action. The entire case is based on allegations pertaining to documents referred to in the plaintiff’s papers. We are unable to plead unless we are provided with all the documents requested,” said Xulu, who refused to comment on whether he would call Zuma or sitting or former Cabinet ministers to court to explain Makhanya’s appointment and his alleged role in inflating the cost of the project.

“We cannot comment or confirm as to prospective witnesses and or our anticipated course of action,” he said.

Ndala confirmed Xulu had requested “certain documents”.

“The unit is working on a response, which will be filed within the next few days. The matter remains sub judice,” Ndala said.

Asked when the report would be made public, Ndala said the SIU had given the report to Zuma but was not empowered to release it or make it public. He said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the claim against Makhanya because the matter was before court.

Makhanya, who was reportedly asked to design King Goodwill Zwelithini’s new palace at KwaNobamba, near Ulundi, also faces an investigation for misconduct by the SA Council for the Architectural Profession (Sacap).

On Friday, Sacap’s council referred him to its investigating committee for his role in inflating the costs of the Nkandla project.

Sacap registrar Marella O’Reilly said the investigation was sparked by the SIU’s report as it was obliged to investigate any architect believed to be guilty of improper conduct.

The investigation, being conducted in terms of section 28(1) of the Architectural Profession Act, would be “a comprehensive one and therefore likely to take some time”, she said.

A decision on whether or not Makhanya would face a disciplinary tribunal would only be taken after the investigative committee delivered its report.

If found guilty, Makhanya could be fined, reprimanded or struck off the roll of architects, according to O’Reilly.

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