How long will Makhanya maintain his stoic silence?

2014-08-16 00:00

NKANDLA architect Minenhle Makhanya maintains his stoic silence as his R155 million court challenge looms.

He went to ground after the graft-busting Special Investigations Unit hit him with a precedent setting lawsuit for irregular and unauthorised upgrades to the sprawling presidential homestead in Nkandla.

Court papers revealed a project riddled with illegal appointments, unbridled spending and bloat as building costs sky-rocketed.

The appointment of Makhanya, Jacob Zuma’s personal architect, was allegedly made at the request of Department of Public Works officials, with no competitive bidding or open tender process. Makhanya is accused of authorising improvements and installing security measures in excess of and far beyond those determined by the SAPS and SANDF.

The Department of Public Works, also cited as a defendant in the case for allegedly appointing him illegally, has been similarly silent and has refused to comment on the court papers.

Makhanya’s own homestead mirrors the one that landed him in hot water this week. His secluded farm hide-out is the perfect place to lie low. Tucked away in the hills of Richmond and flanked by the Illovo River, it is sheltered from prying eyes.

Four luxury rondavels, practically identical to those set within the security fence-line of Nkandla, dominate the hillside.

Much like his famous presidential client, Makhanya appears to be making every effort to keep people out.

After a rattling stretch on unmaintained dirt track, visitors are unceremoniously halted by a chain strung across the road.

The ad hoc obstacles girdle his farm’s boundary, and lie ahead of imposing and newly constructed gate posts topped with sculptures of eagles with their wings outstretched and the Madonna with an open-palmed embrace.

A driveway lined with recently planted saplings is etched into the hillside before reaching the cluster of rondavels and cattle kraal.

When Weekend Witness visited the farm yesterday, three men armed with sticks quickly warded off unwelcome media.

“He is not here, you must leave,” one man said, brandishing his weapon.

Several buildings surround the crescent of rondavels, including what appears to be a store for farm equipment and another warehouse.

A centre-pivot irrigator, understood to be worth nearly R1,5 million, stands on the hillside unused.

A herd of goats ambled over an untilled field, closely watched by a man at their rear.

Makhanya has two weeks to respond to the Special Investigation Unit’s court demand.

• jeff.wicks@witness.co.za

PREPARATIONS to defend embattled architect Minenhle Makhanya will begin in earnest next week.

His attorney Barnabas Xulu said that several consultations had been scheduled for the days to come.

The architect has remained mum as media interest in his case continues to mount.

“We have only had one consultation on this matter so far and there are several more that will take place this week as we make our preparations,” he said.

“There is considerable media interest in this case and given the gravity, it would not be prudent to discuss details at this time. There will be an opportunity for us to disclose more after consultations have been concluded,” he said.

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