High heels and 9 other explanations for the Nkandla upgrades

2013-12-19 14:27

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, among others, briefed the media today on the previously classified task team report on upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead. Here are 10 explanations they gave for the upgrades of about R208 million.

1. Fire pool

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega explained that those who grew up in rural areas knew that “there is no fire extinguishers or fire brigades”.

She said the “best we know is to take a bucket, dip it in water and throw it on the fire”.

General Vijay Ramlakan, the retired surgeon-general who represented the defence force, confirmed that there was “what is referred to in the media” as a swimming pool, but that the department of defence’s original request had been “translated by public works engineers into what is there”.

2. Paving

“Anybody who has ever been to Nkandla knows you should not wear high heels,” explained Ramlakan.

The paving, for which the state paid, was necessary because the terrain can be very “inhospitable”, especially when it rained. Ramlakan said that paving referred to access roads and to allow vehicles to patrol security fences, which was necessary.

3. The chicken run

The chicken run was created to replace a number of “building block” structures which were obstructions and “potential hiding areas for intruders”, said Nxesi.

“The relocation of these loose structures to a dedicated area improved the security on site,” said Nxesi.

4. Cattle kraal and culvert

“Not just a nice-to-have, according to Phiyega and Ramlakan. False alarms as well as damage to the fence and sensitive electronic equipment could be caused by the cattle. “The cattle and people were using the same entrance due to the location of the kraal posing a potential risk in the high security area,” said Nxesi.

5. Air conditioning

Ramlakan explains that “anybody who has had to be [in a room] with bulletproof windows will know those windows cannot be easily opened”.

It was for this reason, he said, that air conditioning was necessary.

6. Astroturf soccer pitches

Ramlakan, pointing out that he was speaking under correction, said nongovernmental organisation had created the Astroturf soccer field as part of a 2010 Fifa World Cup legacy project. He said it was on the edge of the property and not part of it.

7. Relocation of neighbouring families

The neighbouring families living near Zuma had to be relocated because they were “identified as a security risk”, explained Nxesi.

“The rondavels could not remain where they were as they were going to be an obstruction to the fence line and furthermore posed a challenge for the positioning of the surveillance cameras.”

Phiyega, when asked if it wouldn’t have been cheaper to simply move Zuma’s homestead considering all the security risks in the area, said that was a very “demanding, if not arrogant question”.

“When you choose what is your home and you knew that home forever and ever and a day ... [that is an] insensitive question, every person has a right to choose where they should live,” said Phiyega.

8. Tuck shop

Nxesi said because of the “security risks” posed by shoppers coming into the high security area to shop at MaKhumalo’s tuck shop, it had to be moved.

9. Amphitheatre

Nxesi explained that “a retaining wall which is the so-called “amphitheatre” meant for ground protection, is not an amphitheatre but constructed as a structure with steps”. He said it was in excess of 4m high, broken down in the form of stepped terraces and “curved to give it more structural stability against the earth”.

10. Three attacks at Zuma homestead

Phiyega also revealed that there had been three criminal incidents at Zuma’s home. Two were incidents of arson and the third was an assault against one of Zuma’s wives during which her home was burgled. Phiyega did not have the exact dates, but a police official confirmed that one of the incidents was when Zuma was still deputy president.

Nkandla: Ministerial task team investigation report

Government releases Nkandla task team report

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