Save haven and tunnels under Nkandla, but work is not finished

2014-11-17 00:00

THE security upgrades at the Zuma estate in Nkandla started with a humble R500 000 panic room, but quickly ballooned into a R20 million bunker linked by a network of tunnels to three homes — and it is not finished yet.

Details about the tunnels under President Jacob Zuma’s private estate were revealed for the first time by a source in the Department of Public Works who has intimate knowledge of the Nkandla project.

The Public Protector had found in her Nkandla report, Secure in Comfort, taxpayers will have to pay for the upkeep of upgrades to the estate, including the tunnels and swimming pool for as long as the president lives there, and maybe longer.

Our sister paper Beeld has learnt:

• A network of tunnels stretches almost 150 metres and four metres deep under the private estate, linking three new houses on the property.

• “The private estate’s network of tunnels is similar to that at Genadendal, the presidential home in Cape Town.”

• The tunnels exit in a bunker where “the president can live during an emergency”.

• Access to the tunnels are protected by “unbreakable, fire proof doors”.

• Because Zuma has ageing family members, it was decided to add four lifts to access the tunnels. “It is this network of tunnels that take up a large portion of the [Nkandla] costs.”

• The tunnels under the new houses are not linked to the first house on the estate. This was planned under phase three of the project, but this phase has not started due to the public outcry about the R246 million that is known to have been spent on improving the estate.

The source said the top management at Public Works had ordered the changes. A second source at Public Works said Public Protector Thuli Ma­donsela was forbidden to make public details of the tunnels in her report.

The report does mention the installation of the lifts had cost the tax payer over R2 million.

Madonsela’s report points out the original plans for a panic room in one of the homes, which Zuma could have used during an emergency, would have cost the tax payer only R457 971 in February 2010.

Since then, Zuma’s private architect Minenhle Makhanya was asked for his inputs, which changed one panic room into a underground safe haven, with a network of tunnels that cost R8 million.

After more changes, including installing of a secure air conditioning system “that can withstand any type of attack”, Makhanya’s safe haven cost the taxpayer R19 598 904, Madonsela found.

Despite all the money spent on upgrading the safety and security measures at the estate, the Parliamentary ad hoc committee expressed worries that the president is still not safe at Nkandla.

This is because the tunnels and bunker are only partly finished, as work stopped as various investigations started in the spending at Nkandla.

Madonsela found Makhanya was asked to come up with more economical possibilities. He would, however, instead suggest something even more expensive and more luxurious and write it down to security requirements, Madonsela said. Makhanya was paid R16,5 million for his services.

Spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said the Public Protector is no longer investigating Nkandla and will only become involved as a friend of the court if the issue is brought to court, or if Parliament asks the Public Protector’s office to explain its findings.

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