Jacob Zuma’s architect: ‘I won't pay’

2014-08-17 15:00

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President Jacob Zuma’s architect is fighting back.

Tomorrow, Minenhle Makhanya – who is being sued by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) for R155?million he was allegedly paid for unnecessary work, or work that simply wasn’t done – will serve notice in the Pietermaritzburg High Court of his intention to defend the claim.

Makhanya, who this week went to ground after the SIU filed its court papers on Tuesday, has hired a high-powered legal team to defend him.

His lawyer, Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust founder and prominent ANC lawyer, Barnabas Xulu, confirmed his client would “most definitely” be responding to the SIU’s claim.

Xulu, a partner in the legal firm of Paul Ngobeni – who was tasked with crafting Zuma’s escape from corruption charges in 2009. Xulu counts Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe and SABC’s chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng as clients.

“We confirm that we act on behalf of Mr Minenhle Makhanya. We have instructions to defend the matter. We will file notice of intention to defend on Monday,” Xulu told City Press.

Xulu declined to comment further, saying he still had to consult with his client in detail ahead of briefing counsel this week. But he did say Makhanya indicated he “will not be paying [back] any money”.

In one of the claims outlined in court papers, senior forensic lawyer for the SIU in KwaZulu-Natal Ashish Gosai said Makhanya should be forced to repay the R54.8?million he paid to Pamela Mfeka of Moneymine Investments and Thandeka Nene of Bonelena Construction Enterprise and Projects – the two contractors responsible for the construction side of the project.

But Nene refused to discuss the SIU claim, saying it had nothing to do with her or her company.

“I don’t know why you’re talking to me,” she told City Press yesterday. “Ask the architect, he is the one with an issue here, not me. I have nothing to say about this. There were more than 20 contractors on site, so why are you talking to me?”

She refused to comment and cut the call when asked whether she would repay any money she was wrongfully paid by the public works department.

Xulu said that after tomorrow’s notice, Makhanya had another 20 days to file details of his opposition to the SIU’s claim.

Meanwhile, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is preparing to take the president on due to her dissatisfaction with his response to her report on the upgrading of his Nkandla estate.

Yesterday, Madonsela was adamant Zuma had not responded to her own report in his 20-page report to the Speaker of Parliament on the security upgrades to his home in Nkandla, which was released on Thursday.

Madonsela said: “That document does not respond to my report at all, it does mention my report, but it doesn’t respond to it. It mentions the various investigations that have taken place but doesn’t comment on my investigation at all.”

The presidency said the report constituted Zuma’s response not only to Madonsela’s report, but to others on the R246?million security upgrades at Nkandla, including those of the SIU and the joint standing committee on intelligence.

Madonsela said she would write to the president’s office to remind him that the law stipulates he provide her with a thorough response.

“I will indicate to the president directly what is outstanding in terms of the law.

“Every issue that has been canvassed with the president has to be resolved,” she said.

But the presidency insisted in a statement yesterday afternoon that Zuma had responded to all reports – including Madonsela’s, which recommends that he pay for all non-security related upgrades to his home, including the “swimming/fire” pool, chicken run, amphitheatre and cattle kraal.

But in his response, Zuma left it to new Police Minister Nathi Nhleko to determine whether he is liable and should repay any money spent on upgrading his home.

Also unhappy is former deputy public works minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, whose name features in Zuma’s response, which was not shared with her before its release. Bogopane-Zulu told City Press yesterday she will ask the president’s office for a copy of the report.

“They have not shared it with us. If there’s a mention of me, principle says the presidency has to share it with us before they share it with the media.

“I find it disturbing that the president’s response, when my name is mentioned, is shared with the media before it is shared with us,” she said.

In his response, Zuma quotes from a progress report on the investigation into the upgrades by the SIU, which found that “there may have been undue interference” by Bogopane-Zulu and former public works minister Geoff Doidge “in the appointment of certain contractors, suppliers or service providers”.

The same finding was made by the interministerial task team that investigated the Nkandla spending.

Bogopane-Zulu also took issue with that report, saying her ministerial colleagues had not interviewed her before reaching that conclusion.

Madonsela found allegations that Bogopane-Zulu or Doidge might have interfered in the appointment of contractors at Nkandla could not be substantiated.

Bogopane-Zulu said she cooperated fully with the SIU and they could have at least shared their progress report with her before some of its recommendations were made public.

“I can’t respond to a document I have not seen?...?I am irritated because they did not share it with me,” she said.

Doidge could not be reached for comment.

Makhanya, meanwhile, has taken refuge at his pig farm in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal, and refused to talk to City Press.

“No comment,” he said, and cut the call.

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