Blank cheque on Nkandla home

2012-10-06 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Government has in effect given a blank cheque for the upgrades and improvement to President Jacob Zuma’s private home in KwaZulu-Natal.

Media speculations estimate that at least R203 million has already been spent on Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla, but this amount is probably a lot higher, as several state departments that have done work on the complex did not report their expenses.

Cosatu’s anti-graft watchdog, Corruption Watch, yesterday said it wants Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi to explain the R203 million upgrade of the Nkandla homestead and it wants answers by next Friday.

Nxesi has reportedly suggested that the leaking of the documents about the multi-million revamp was related to the ANC’s power struggle ahead of the party’s elective conference in Mangaung.

Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie, acting director-general of Public Works, yesterday told a media conference that the department’s budget for the Zuma construction project formed part of the department’s “prestige portfolio”.

He said any amount spent as part of this portfolio was “classified”.

Other departments all had the same excuses for not making public how much tax revenue had been spent on the president’s Nkandla home — one of four homes the department maintains for Zuma.

Sister paper Beeld has, however, investigated the department’s annual reports for the past two financial years, from which it seems Public Works started using the secret prestige portfolio only in 2010/11.

The reports lists that the department spent R67,2 million as part of this secret account in the financial year that ended on March 31, 2012.

In the previous financial year, the amount was R71 million, bringing the prestige portfolio total to R138,2 million.

It is not clear whether all the money was spent on Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.

The department simply lists that the money was used for construction work.

Fatyela-Lindie told the media: “You can try your luck” with the Auditor-General (A-G), whose office audited the classified information.

Nxesi said the work and the secrecy surrounding it was allowed by the ministerial handbook and several laws, like the National Key Points Act of 1980 and several defence acts. The Witness reported yesterday that the ministerial handbook limits security alterations to R100 000, and only on privately-owned homes.

The Nkandla homestead is not privately owned, but built on land owned by the Ingonyama Trust.

Cosatu’s Corruption Watch yesterday said Nxesi must explain the discrepancy between the R100 000 the ministerial handbook permits as the maximum amount of money that can be spent on the president’s security arrangements, and the R202,9 million government is spending on Zuma’s sprawling rural home.

The organisation also wants to know how the money will be used,

Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said the organisation was asking questions because it wanted ministers in government to account for their actions.

“We want him to explain his decisions as the minister concerned. We want leaders in the public and private sector to account for the use of public resources,” he said.

Nxesi said a security analysis of the complex had shown that construction work on Zuma’s private home was needed.

Nxesi said the work included new roads built to facilitate access to main routes; housing for security and government officials and airforce personnel.

A medical clinic and a fire station was also built and both are staffed 24 hours a day.

Two helicopter landing stations were built as well as extensive sewerage works.

Nxesi — whose department received a qualified audit from the A-G this year — told the media he has started an investigation to determine how sister paper City Press had got hold of the “secret documents” that brought the millions being spent on Zuma’s homes to the public eye.

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