A Zuma loses at Nkandla

2012-11-29 00:00

A MAN claiming to be President Jacob Zuma’s nephew, who scored a R16 million construction deal in the Nkandla complex, is gunning for its main contractor.

Vincent Zuma (34), who says he is the son of Zuma’s deceased half-brother, Richard, claims he received only a fraction of the money.

But his chances of recouping his fees look slim. The chief contractor, Bonelena Construction Enterprise and Projects, based in Pietermaritzburg, has gone bust.

Zuma claims Bonelena never honoured the terms of its contract with him, an allegation which it denies.

An appointment letter signed on June 12, 2011, by Thandeka Nene, managing director of Bonelena, states Zuma’s company Bhekumuntu was expected to begin work on the “Durban Prestige Project A: Civil Works” — which is what the R240 million Nkandla project is known as — on June 9, 2011.

The completion date was left open-ended with a handwritten note merely saying “programme to be issued”.

Various media reports have identified Nene’s company as the main contractor for the Nkandla project. She apparently received two building contracts worth R33,4 million and R66 million.

Zuma said he “saw no conflict of interest” in obtaining the sub-contract, adding he got it fairly and did not trade on his family name. He said his side of the family wasn’t well known to the president.

“I did approach Michael [Jacob’s brother] in 2011 about arranging a meeting with the president to try and get better ties with the family, as we aren’t known to each other.

“My father shared a father with the president, but they didn’t know each other,” said Zuma.

However, Anchen Dreyer, DA shadow minister for public works, said if the family link was true, there would “most certainly be a conflict of interest”.

“Awarding contracts for state tenders to family members of government officials and public representatives is unethical and potentially corrupt,” said Dreyer.

Nene was asked about the possible conflict of interest. She said it was not her company’s responsibility to do a “background check” to ascertain “who is related to who”.

“Bhekumuntu’s agreement was terminated due to poor performance. His relations had no bearing in the way we do business.

“We are not in the business of investigating the relatives of our sub-contractors because Bonelena Construction is a professionally run entity that does not allow influences and forces outside the scope of work,” said Nene, in a written reply.

But Zuma’s claim of not being paid just might hold water. The Witness has ascertained that Reebib Rentals, owned by the Avis car rental group, obtained a final liquidation order in the Pietermaritzburg High Court against Bonelena last month.

An “Insolvent Estates” notice was placed in The Witness.

The Witness was unable to get any comment from Nene on the liquidation, but has learnt one of the main creditors is the Industrial Development Corporation.

Zuma said he has been unable to pay his staff, creditors and suppliers as a result of the non-payment. Two plant hire suppliers who did work for Zuma said they pulled their machines off site in September 2011. Collectively they were owed nearly R300 000.

Zuma said he was only ever paid R138 000 and never received his site establishment fee of R2 million. “My work is good. I have been in construction for over a decade. I had no option but to walk off site. I have never received a contract termination letter from Bonelena.” Zuma said he had “dealt” with Bonelena in the past on a school project.

The Department of Public Works, approached on Monday, first gave The Witness the run-around and would not answer whether Bonelena had been paid. Head information officer Sam Mkhwanazi said there might be legal issues and responded that “no one is alleging that the contractor has not been paid”.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj was contacted on Tuesday by telephone, text message and e-mail, and then again yesterday, but no response was forthcoming.

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