Embattled Nkandla architect invites others ‘affected’ to join forces

2014-09-16 00:00

EMBATTLED Nkandla architect Minenhle Makhanya, being sued for R155 million by the state, has invited others implicated to join legal forces.

Today his lawyers will file notice at the Pietermaritzburg High Court demanding all additional documents being used in the civil court action against him be handed over.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is suing Pinetown-based Makhanya — who netted R17 million in architect fees for designing and driving the state-financed R246 million splurge on President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla home — to recover the funds he allegedly plundered from the Department of Public Works (DPW).

However, according to a SIU report handed to Parliament last week that probed the multi-million-rand Nkandla upgrade, such were the perceived secrecy levels surrounding the development that key documents were “destroyed” while no minutes of any meetings exist.

SIU sleuths admitted senior officials, contractors and consultants delivered contradictory versions on key facts and state officials may have deliberately tried to delay their investigation and withhold evidence. By the SIU’s own admission, several key documents could not be found.

The report said no “serious” recordings of any meetings discussing Project Prestige A — the code name for the household and security upgrades — were “singularly helpful” to the SIU.

Makhanya’s lawyer Barnabas Xulu said before any court proceedings could begin, his client would still seek the “right to speak”.

“Makhanya was required to sign several non-disclosure documents concerning the Nkandla upgrade. First we need to locate these documents and have them waivered before [proceeding]. From what we understand he could face criminal prosecution otherwise,” said Xulu.

Xulu, a prominent Western Cape lawyer who once administered The Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust and represented troubled Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe, said a notice would be served by Friday to allow others implicated in the report to join Makhanya in the defence.

“It will depend on the other parties and [where they find similarities]. We still have a long process ahead,” said Xulu.

Xulu’s Pietermaritzburg-based representatives Tomlinson Mnguni James Attorneys will today file notice requesting all documents being used by the SIU in the civil claim against Makhanya.

The SIU provided several documents late last week but declined to provide others Makhanya had requested.

‘No official record to speak of on Nkandla upgrade’

GOVERNMENT records on the Nkandla upgrade were so poor investigators had to use unofficial reports to conduct their investigation.

In the detailed 253-page SIU report handed to Parliament, investigators said the “main stumbling block” was there was “no official record to speak of” relating to the upgrade.

The report said DPW officials — Nkandla project manager Jean Rindel, former project manager Sam Mahadeo and Durban Public Works regional manager Kenneth Khanyile “vaguely suggested” they had been told not to keep documents or to destroy them.

When pressed on the instruction’s source, they did not provide details and their superiors denied issuing such an instruction.

There were also no audio recordings of any meetings in 2009, only four in 2010 and a handful in 2011 lasting seconds or “a few minutes” at a time while only one recording was dated and none had references.

Minutes obtained were not “relevant to this project” with investigators informed “special meetings” were called to take decisions on the “Nkandla matters”.

“Despite a diligent search ... the minutes could not be located”.

They also discovered documents

relating to the upgrade with no official status while others required for the investigation were delivered just weeks before the completion date.

“One cannot but conclude either officials had been withholding documents ... or had suddenly ‘found them’”, the report said.

Documents without official status were relied on as well as interviews with role-players that were “different and ... contradictory versions of what happened”.

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