Nkandla files laptop gone

2014-09-30 00:00

THE office of the man representing the 12 Nkandla “scapegoats” has been burgled — on the eve of the civil servants’ potentially explosive hearings.

Having somehow got past guards and into an 11th floor Durban union office, they stole the personal laptop of Claude Naicker, KwaZulu-Natal manager of the Public Servants Association (PSA), while ignoring DVD players, other valuables and all other offices.

Elevator cameras were “not working” on Friday night, when building security believe the break-in happened.

Naicker’s team is representing 12 Public Works officials who today will be formally charged with misconduct and tens of millions in irregular expenditure on the upgrade to President Jacob Zuma’s home. He said two more officials yesterday requested representation in the disciplinary hearings, bringing the total to 12.

Naicker revealed his labour relations officer Roshan Lil-Ruthan would request postponements in all 12 cases today, “so we can receive and read the evidence brought by the employer”.

A report by the Special Investigating Unit (SUI) fingers the officials for breaching procurement procedures, but admits none of the employees benefitted financially for their alleged misconduct.

While former Public Works directors-general are also facing charges, no politician has yet been charged or disciplined in the R246 million overspending scandal.

Yesterday, the PSA held a meeting to discuss what Nkandla materials were on the laptop and whether it could have been targeted by unknown parties concerned about the employees’ testimony.

One assistant told Naicker: “They must have been after your Nkandla files.”

The Witness understands some stokvel money may also have been taken.

However, yesterday Naicker said he was more sceptical, saying he considered an Nkandla-related motive for the crime a “remote possibility — maybe a five percent chance”.

“But you never know. If that’s what it was about, that would be chilling,” he said.

He said: “The first thing my staff said to me was: ‘How much Nkandla material was on there?’ It was strange they only went to my office and only took my laptop and did not take the DVD player there or some liquor that was there from a previous party.

“Also, they went to a great deal of trouble to get in — we have a pretty immovable padlock; they had to go through a small glass pane. The reason I don’t think it was connected is that there have been other break-ins in recently”.

He said some of the public servants represented by the PSA have expressed concerns about their personal security during the multi-week disciplinary process.

Naicker’s team interviewed the 12 Public Works employees last week, but said their interviews had not been downloaded to his laptop.

Among them is project manager Jean Rindel — facing eight charges of misconduct. Like his colleagues, Rindel has denied all charges.

While Lil-Ruthan has called his clients “scapegoats”, Naicker said “I’m hesitant to use words like scapegoat or fall-guy — it may be an unfortunate case of a department wanting to be seen to be fully investigating a very public problem. But these charges are unfair — and they are already having a negative impact on these members and their families. The signs of stress and anguish are clearly visible; there is real concern about loss of jobs for people who have served the department diligently for decades in some cases.”

He said the laptop had held “valuable information”, but that much of it was “personal”.

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