Nkandla builder pays fine

2013-12-28 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s controversial Nkandla homestead builder, Thandeka Nene, who was bust on allegations of fraud in the Seychelles just before Christmas, is back in South Africa, a free woman.

Her Durban-based lawyer, Phyllis Jailall, confirmed yesterday that the glamorous Nene paid a fine of 50 000 rupees (about R43 464) after her last court appearance in the Seychelles last Friday. She arrived back in South Africa on Monday in time to spend the festive season with her family.

Nene’s company Bonelena Construction obtained contracts valued at up to R78,2 million for government-funded upgrades to the Zuma’s Nkandla complex. However, the company faced liquidation for owing R175 000 for vehicle rentals.

A month later, her company was bailed out by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) with a R30 million loan.

Jailall, of Jailall, Yusuph and Associates, said the Seychelles fine was not an admission of guilt, but was paid for being in possession of a “false” document. — a bank draft cheque. The lawyer said so far the document had not been proven to be false.

Jailall said her client was not directly linked to the case, but her potential business associates were.

The Mail & Guardian had reported earlier this month that the wealthy Nene, who built her empire on government construction tenders, was arrested with two others — one said to be a South African and the other from Sierra Leone.

They were charged with bank fraud. According to the Mail & Guardian, the trio allegedly approached a Seychelles Bank to open a new account.

The account was to be funded by millions held in an offshore account in HSBC Bank. The scam was apparently revealed when HSBC informed the Seychelles Bank.

Jailall told Weekend Witness that Nene’s co-accused had paid the same fines. She refused to divulge their names as they were not her clients.

However, she did add that Nene was happy to be home and that she was not ready to speak to the media.

Nene’s family and church have also gone to ground. Nene’s sister, Cindy Ngubane, who lives in Pietermaritzburg, cut the call when told it was a reporter on the line.

Key members of her church, Power of God Assemblies, of which she is the senior pastor, were also not prepared to talk to the media.

Nene, who is often seen draped in designer wear and has a penchant for mansions and flashy cars, started her life as a pastor’s daughter.

Her father founded the Power of God Assemblies, which boasts more than a 100 branches today. After he died in 1998, her mother took over as leader and today Nene continues the work.

Born and matriculated in Durban, Nene obtained a teaching diploma and taught for 10 years at the Edendale Technical High School in Pietermaritzburg. While teaching, she studied electrical engineering, did her Bachelor of Education Honours and studied project management.

She resigned from teaching in 2005 to open her own company — Bonelena.

Nene told The Witness in an earlier interview that she started by building toilets and classrooms in rural areas, and moved on to build schools, hospitals, a railway station, courts and prisons.

The well-connected entrepreneur was soon getting contracts from a host of government departments. She moved in the social circles of the political and economic elite, and is said to be friends with the Zuma family.

Nene lives in Umhlanga with her husband, Skumbuzo, and her three children. He is also involved in business and is also a senior pastor in the Power of God Assemblies.

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