Nkandla architect played a key role in exponential increase of costs

2014-03-20 00:00

THE Durban-based architect, who was President Jacob Zuma’s “de facto” decision-maker throughout the development of the nearly quarter-billion Nkandla compound, has been found to have played a pivotal role in the massive cost escalations.

Minenhle Makhanya, whose name is mentioned 76 times in the report, has since disappeared and could not be found at either his office in Pinetown or his home nearby, and did not return calls or messages.

Yesterday Public Protector Thuli Madonsela stated Makhanya’s involvement changed the development of the complex significantly, taking the project from an initially estimated cost of R27 million to R246 million or higher.

In Madonsela’s scathing report, labelled “Secure in Comfort”, in which she found the president to have benefited personally from the development, she said Makhanya was instrumental to the escalating costs, often opting for more expensive solutions as opposed to cost-effective ones.

Ironically, Makhanya was quoted in minutes stating the “pool has been placed on hold because of the pool bearing a private costing which the principal [Zuma] did not accommodate for”. The pool was built and paid for by the state that classified it as a “fire pool”.

He is believed to have acted without care for the costs and changing designs for frivolous reasons. He was quoted in the report saying “this is how they do it England” as a reason for moving the cattle kraal.

Madonsela said it was “common cause” that Makhanya served as the overall architect and that he was the “go-between between the government officials and the president”.

She said one of the official project managers said Makhanya was the “de facto project manager”, it was difficult to control him and it was a case of “the tail wagging the dog”.

While his office was open for business yesterday, the driveway security gate was closed. When The Witness rang the outside intercom bell, a man, who claimed he was Makhanya’s assistant, said he had no idea where Makhanya was or when he would come to the office. Asked about Madonsela’s findings, he said, “I cannot discuss that report”.

A gardener confirmed Makhanya’s car was parked at the office but said he had not seen him.

Madonsela said since Makhanya got involved in what was termed Prestige Project A, the scale of work increased “exponentially, leading to installations that were not recommended”.

She said DPW staff could not control Makhanya because he had the ear of the president. “My opinion is that even a minister could have had difficulty countermanding Mr Makhanya.”

Makhanya, who had no security clearance, was privy to confidential meetings and influenced key security measures.

Zuma told the protector’s office that he did not insist on Makhanya being appointed, but that he did introduce the architect to the DPW team at his home in Nkandla in August 2009.

Makhanya made R16,5 million from the Nkandla project by the time of the investigation’s conclusion.

“The cost analysis shows that the Nkandla project started from humble beginnings, but soon escalated by more than 200% within a year. It is also clear that the uncontrollable escalation took place once the decision-making powers shifted towards Mr Makhanya as the Principal Agent.”

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