‘SIU was hindered from gaining access to Nkandla’

2014-07-11 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) struggled for months to get access to Nkandla.

Head of the SIU advocate Vas Soni yesterday told the parliamentary committee on justice that SIU investigators could only visit President Jacob Zuma’s private estate at Nkandla for the first time last week as part of their probe into the R246 million of taxpayers’ money that was spent on the estate.

He said factors outside his control delayed access to the estate to last Thursday — more than six months after a proclamation on December 20 authorised the SIU to investigate the Nkandla spending.

The SIU had hoped to finalise its investigation by the end of May, but had to postpone its deadline to the end of June. Two weeks ago, the SIU announced it would also miss this deadline due to factors outside its control.

Soni yesterday explained the delays, saying the SIU owed it to South Africa’s public to complete the investigation as quickly as possible, but it was bound by a constitutional democracy that required the SIU to follow certain processes.

“We could not just enter the house of a private resident, we had to follow certain protocols.”

Soni said the SIU had for a while been trying without success to get access to Nkandla.

“Several government departments were involved and we had to negotiate.”

Soni did not want to say which departments these were, but said the permissions involved State Security.

Dr Siyabonga Cwele was the minister of state security until the May elections.

Cwele was one of the ministers in the security cluster who took Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to court last year to prevent her from making public her report into the Nkandla affair.

Another delay was caused, Soni said, by two officials who were named in the SIU report, but who had not yet reacted to requests for their comment.

Soni said while the two officials were not obstructing the finalising of the SIU’s Nkandla report, they were “obviously delaying” it, and he will get legal advice on how to handle them if they do not react soon.

Four months after Madonsela handed her Nkandla report to Parliament, Zuma has still not responded to its findings, that should repay some of the costs.

He undertook to do so after the SIU had completed its report.

Legislation determined the SIU must hand its investigative reports to the president, after which he will decide if he wants to make the content public or not.

Soni said this process will also be followed with the SIU’s Nkandla report.

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