Nkandla contractor ‘gives back’ to community

2014-11-19 14:39

Controversial Nkandlagate contractor Thandeka Nene, who was fingered by the Special Investigating Unit and the Public Protector for scooping a cool R78 million in inflated costs, has reinvented herself as a “mentor’’ for emerging construction companies wanting to make money out of government contracts.

Yesterday, Nene – who the SIU said received R1.8 million for a fence she never built as part of her payments for work on the R246 million security upgrade – addressed about 150 representatives of existing and wannabe township businesses who had attended her workshop on “SMME opportunities and the national development plan’’.

Nene’s Bonelena Construction and Projects, along with Pamela Mfeka’s Moneymine Investments, received the lion’s share of the R155 million paid by principal agent Minenhle Makhanya. The SIU is trying to recover the millions from Makhanya through a high court application.

Makhanya, in turn, has gone to court to join Mfeka, Nene and other contractors as co-defendants to face the recovery bid. Makhanya’s application goes back to court on January 26, but Nene has yet to be served.

Yesterday’s event was hosted by Nene’s Buono African Pty Ltd, a holding company which lists construction, finance, energy and mining, farming and property development as among its interests and boasts of the Nkandla project as being among its leading government contracts.

“Through the reputation that we have gained in the industry, Buono Africa was pointed (sic) to build the current South African president’s presidential home,’’ states an orange block on Buono’s company profile, which was distributed at the seminar.

Nene, who comes from Durban’s KwaDabeka township, was clearly in her element as she regaled enthralled delegates on her achievements in the male-dominated construction industry, saying she had studied engineering and project management while working as a teacher ahead of her leap into the industry in 2005.

Nene said she had faced serious opposition and scepticism, even being asked “what do you want here – your place is in the kitchen’’ by a consultant on site early in her career.

She said she had made up for her lack of experience by studying concrete strengths and other technical plans the night before going on site in her early days and had proved to her workers that “I knew my stuff’’ in that way.

Looking rather fetching in a zip-front, red two-piece suit and some serious heels, Nene said she was studying towards her MBA and upgrading her construction company’s grading

She skirted the Nkandla issue, instead saying that she had taken a hammering financially during a fall in construction business between 2010 and 2012. Nene said she was “still standing’’ because “my foundations are solid’’ and claimed divine intervention on her behalf.

Deputy Minister of Small Business Elizabeth Thabethe had initially been billed to address the seminar, along with National Planning Commissioner Elias Masilela and speakers from Absa and other institutions involved in funding and promoting small business, but she pulled out of the event.

In an interview during the lunch break, Nene consistently refused to discuss Nkandlagate beyond confirming that she had not been served a summons by Makhanya’s legal team. She also refused to discuss the attempt by her creditors to have Bonelena liquidated.

Nene said the seminar followed an earlier one in Joburg, where she now runs a second office, and that she planned to hold similar events next year.

“This is my way of giving back. People are excited about learning how to do business. We had more people here than we could accommodate,’’ said Nene, who cut short the interview for an impromptu photoshoot with workshop participants who were lining up for a moment with Sis Thandeka.

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