Defence man likely to be first Nkandla scapegoat

2014-03-27 00:00

THE Department of Defence will probably be the first government department to take internal disciplinary steps against one of its senior generals in the aftermath of the Nkandla scandal.

Lieutenant-General Vejay Ramlakan has been the main figure in the Nkandla debacle and is fingered in the report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela as being guilty of some irregularities.

Ramlakan was the department’s surgeon-general at the start of the Nkandla project, whereafter he was appointed to his present position as that of corporate head of staff. He was also in charge of the medical team that treated former president Nelson Mandela.

The construction of a helicopter pad, a clinic and living quarters for military personnel forms part of the irregularities.

Defence Chief General Solly Shoke appointed a council in January to investigate the defence force’s involvement in the Nkandla project. This followed a preliminary report issued in December by an inter-ministerial committee, which embarked on its own investigation.

Shoke initially — and prior to the establishment of his investigation council — was of the view that it was unnecessary to act against Ramlakan as the defence force had not officially been involved in the project. However, Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula apparently insisted that an investigation take place because Ramlakan was seen to be “the image” of the defence force in the saga.

Head of the Army Lieutenant-General Vusi Masondo was appointed chairperson of the council, but since then nothing much happened, partly as a result of his health problems.

According to highly placed defence force sources, the scope of the investigation rested mainly on three questions: on whose instructions did Ramlakan get involved in the Nkandla project; from whom he received permission to become part of it; and what financial authorisation did he have for use at the project?

According to sister newspaper Beeld, it is believed that he used his status as surgeon-general, but especially his close relationship with President Jacob Zuma, to play a key role in the project despite the fact that he is a medical doctor and not a security specialist. He apparently was not delegated any powers from the defence force to become involved, although he engaged various sections of the defence force — especially the air force — to become part of the planning of Nkandla.

His relationship with Zuma dates back to the armed struggle when both served in the underground structures of uMkhonto we Sizwe in KZN.

“It is expected that the council’s findings will prove that Ramlakan mainly acted without a mandate from the defence force,” said Beeld’s source.

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