Analysis: Madonsela’s Nkandla report gathers dust

2015-03-29 15:01

It is the anniversary of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report, Secure in Comfort, which investigated the R246?million spent and to be spent on the president’s private residence in Nkandla.

R215?million was already spent, and R31?million was still to be spent.

Nothing and everything has happened in the year of its passage. President Jacob Zuma proved himself a wily political animal, as he successfully focused the debate away from the core. Nothing has come of the report’s view that the president benefited unduly and that he owed the fiscus for this benefit.

Everything has shifted, as four reports battled to define Nkandla. Four institutions of state are embattled, all in varying degrees because of the spending and the investigation thereof (see graphic).

Madonsela summarised the core problem: “The mere magnitude of the Nkandla project, the many buildings constructed, including underground facilities and substantial landscaping interventions, the swimming pool and terrace, amphitheatre, kraal and culvert, visitor’s centre, elaborate paving and the space created for a marquee tent would, in my view, have prompted any reasonable person in the position of the president to seriously question the need for certain items and the expense to the fiscus of funds that could have been used somewhere else where there are service-delivery needs, poverty and unemployment.”

Her conclusion: “The allegation that the excessive expenditure added substantial value to the president’s private property at the expense of state is substantiated?... The acts and omissions that allowed this to happen constitute unlawful and improper conduct and maladministration.”

Nothing has come of this finding, and no political or bureaucratic responsibility have been taken. Ten public works officials who have been charged are likely to be let off scot-free; the president’s personal architect, Minenhle Makhanya, was said to face charges, but there has been no real progress in the case against him.

Instead, President Zuma has sought to change the narrative to a racial and geographic one. He has intimated several times that the uproar is racial and that, because he is a “rural man”, he is not supposed to have a nice home.

The president has maintained, in Parliament and elsewhere, he owes the state no money, while promising that Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko will make a final deliberation on what, if anything, is owed.

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