Nkandla: Jacob Zuma will pay nothing

2013-12-22 14:00

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President Jacob Zuma is set to walk away without paying a cent for the R208?million security upgrades to his Nkandla home.

Even though the department of public works initially tallied Zuma’s part of the bill at R10?million, its minister, Thulas Nxesi, told City Press that Zuma would not pay for any part of it.

“The department will not be asking the president to pay because the president did not ask for the security upgrade,” he said.

Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, the former public works deputy minister fingered in the public works’s interministerial task team report released by Nxesi on Thursday, hit out at her colleagues involved in the investigation, saying she had done “nothing wrong”.

Bogopane-Zulu told City Press yesterday that the report was an unnecessary attack on her integrity and, while she had not seen the report and could not comment on its contents, the process involved in drawing it up was flawed.

“None of the ministers involved?...?have ever spoken to me or asked me anything about this matter.

“Logic, and the tradition of where I come from, says that when somebody’s name is there you at least engage with them to hear their versions of events. Perhaps they know something that I don’t know?’’ she said.

Bogopane-Zulu said she was interviewed by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela about the Nkandla project and was asked to provide her with additional information, which she had done.

She said: “For them to be sitting in the same Cabinet as me, seeing me every day and having every opportunity to engage on it and not doing so, is very painful. It’s not as if I was in another country. You, as the media, will be writing about me, every South African will have an opinion about me when I have never been given an opportunity to defend myself.”

She also defended the president, saying Zuma had never approached her about the upgrades to his property.

“The president had nothing to do with this project. Sometimes we become so obsessed with somebody that we want to blame them for everything,” she said.

“Honestly and truly he had nothing to do with this project?... I have no reason to defend him. I have no reason to lie.”

The president knew

The interministerial report reveals that either Zuma knew about the security upgrades or that his ministers flouted the policy governing them.

A 2003 Cabinet policy states that all approved safety measures taken at the president’s private residence must be communicated to him. He is also required to give permission for these measures. But this contrasts with what justice minister Jeff Radebe had said in January.

He said then: “The president is not involved in this process and he is not expected to sign on anything as he has no authority with these security upgrades.” Radebe said

At Thursday’s press briefing when the once top-secret report was made public, Nxesi said the Cabinet policy placed final responsibility for the cost of the upgrades with public works and that “attempts to lay the responsibility for the upgrade at the door of the president are misdirected and malicious”.

However, the same policy says Zuma’s informed consent would have been a key step. The policy requires public works to cost the measures. The SA Police Service then advises the police minister of “proposed safety measures, including the cost thereof”.

“Whatever measures are approved by the [police minister] shall subsequently be communicated to the president?... for consent,” the policy states.

However, the investigation report says nothing about this requirement. It says only that it “does not place any limit on the amount to be spent on the security upgrades”.

Nxesi has also relied on the National Key Points Act to explain the security measures, but this law also requires that Zuma consult with police minister Nathi Mthethwa about the measures.

The investigation report states that Mthethwa declared Nkandla a key point in April 2010 and the “security upgrades and related activities” started in June.

This act also places a duty on the key point’s owner to consult the minister about the measures required.

The R10?million bill

The decision not to bill Zuma contradicts a memorandum from the Durban regional manager of public works, Kenneth Khanyile, to his former minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde in March 2011. In the memo, he tallies Zuma’s portion of the Nkandla bill at R10?651?580.

In it, he also reveals that Zuma’s portion comes from construction that fell “outside the scope of security measures”, including landscaping.

But on Thursday, Nxesi told City Press that every cent spent on Nkandla was directly linked to security.

“In the case of Nkandla, there is nothing that was done which was not as a result of the security upgrades. It’s like breaking the windows and putting bullet-proof windows in there and then asking the president to pay,” he said.

“The president was never asked to pay because he never asked for the security upgrades. But if it is a national building run by another department, you expect that department to deal with those issues. You can’t expect the president to pay.”

A senior government source with knowledge of the Nkandla upgrades told City Press that the only time the state could foot a bill meant for the owner of a national key point was if they were unwilling or unable to pay.

But Nxesi said his department had never asked Zuma to pay any bill and would not do so in future.

The interministerial report also revealed that Public Works carried the costs because officials did not create a special account – a requirement in terms of the National Key Points Act – through which Zuma could pay. The account is usually funded by Parliament, but is also used to recoup money owed by the key point’s owner.

Nxesi said he was not concerned about the backlash that had followed the report’s release, saying many were satisfied with government’s explanations. “There are people who are satisfied. They understand that the issue of the security of the head of state is non-negotiable,” he said.

The SIU investigation

City Press also understands that Zuma was allegedly reluctant to sign the proclamation that would authorise the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to probe possible collusion by officials and contractors that led to the cost escalation.

Although Radebe promised to make the proclamation available on the Government Gazette’s website by Thursday afternoon, this was not done.

SIU head Advocate Vas Soni told City Press he had a copy, but later said he left it in his office. Attempts to obtain copies from Public Works and the justice department were unsuccessful. Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said the proclamation would be gazetted ­tomorrow.

But government officials who have seen an unsigned draft copy of the proclamation said it was unlikely the SIU would be given the scope to probe allegations that Zuma breached the Executive Members’ Ethics Act.

A well-placed source who works closely with the security cluster said it would be important to see the SIU’s terms of reference. “What has made it difficult for ministers is that the president was not signing the proclamation and it was difficult to explain why.”

Allegations that Zuma breached the Executive Members’ Ethics Act is one of the allegations being investigated by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

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