Nkandla 'chief suspect': Only punish me for what I did wrong

2014-10-01 10:04

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The Nkandla project manager says he is not prepared to take the fall for the scandal around the upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s home.

Jean Rindel (40), project manager at the department of public works’ Durban offices, told the Beeld newspaper today that he hoped the truth would come out and that justice would prevail, but he wouldn’t take responsibility for other people’s transgressions.

“I know what I have done wrong and what I have done right. I am prepared to take the punishment for what I did wrong, but I won’t take the fall for wrongs that I didn’t do.”

Rindel was yesterday the first of at least 13 officials from the department to appear before a disciplinary committee over Nkandla.

It has been speculated that theywere chosen as scapegoats to protect Zuma and Cabinet ministers involved in the scandal, which saw R246?million spent on the upgrades.

The officials face a raft of charges, ranging from financial misconduct and allowing irregular expenditure or fruitless and wasteful expenditure to occur, to prejudicing the administration of the department and misconduct for failing to ensure contractors were appointed in a fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective manner.

The officials, who occupy senior positions, also face charges for contravening the public service’s code of conduct.

The department wanted the hearing to take place behind closed doors.

In what’s been described as a big win for media freedom, Media24 – including City Press – was granted access to Rindel’s disciplinary hearing.

Advocate Joseph Nxusani SC, chairperson of the committee, heard arguments from both sides before deciding that the journalists may attend the hearing and report on it.

Rindel was calm and cool at his first appearance, and jokingly referred to himself as the “chief suspect”.

Rindel, who has worked for the department since 1995, admitted that the Nkandla debacle and disciplinary case was taking its toll.

“We are all responsible for the work that we do, but it is stressful. This is my bread and butter. My entire future is on the line. I am viewing this issue in a very serious light.”

Rindel’s wife, Susanna, works for the South African Police Service.

“We are both in the service of the state, and are proud of that,” he said.

“We life in the Bluff in Durban and are normal, middle-class people. We are ordinary clerks. My wife has stood by me through the entire thing.”

Rindel was in favour of the media attending his hearing.

Roshan Lil-Ruthan, the Public Servants Association labour relations officer who will be representing Rindel, said his client believed that the media presence would help him to get a fair hearing, seeing as he “wasn’t treated fairly” in the run-up to it.

Rindel didn’t want to elaborate on the alleged unfair treatment, but said he was grateful that Media24’s request was granted.

“I believe that it is a good thing because I have nothing to hide.”

The association is representing 12 of the 13 officials who have been charged.

Due to a heavy workload, Lil-Ruthan asked for a postponement so that he and his client could prepare thoroughly.

Nxusani postponed the hearing to December.

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