Nkandla officials afraid for their lives

2014-11-14 00:00

OFFICIALS implicated in the multi-million-rand Nkandla upgrade scandal have opposed the media’s access on the grounds their lives could be in danger.

In a 26-page written submission, 10 of the 12 employees fingered in ignoring the tender regulations to upgrade President Jacob Zuma’s private estate at Nkandla, costing R246 million, said there was a “reasonable apprehension of fear” their lives “may be in danger” as part of their reason to oppose media access.

The submission, made to the Department of Public Works, state attorney, Media24 and the Independent Newspapers Group, also claimed, among their reasons, they would need to disclose “information … sensitive to national security” and they had signed “confirmations of secrecy”.

The employees are contending the hearings are “private” and the public “cannot walk off the street” to attend the hearings.

“There is a real likelihood the personal safety of the respondents may be in jeopardy.

“This is brought into clarity by the necessity for further bodyguards for Public Protector [Thuli] Madonsela after her release of the Nkandla investigation,” said the submission drafted by Derik Jaftha Attorneys.

Madonsela released a detailed report in March titled Secure in Comfort that asked Zuma to refund the State as he was “unduly enriched” by the upgrades to his private property.

This week a special parliamentary ad hoc committee absolved Zuma of any wrongdoing and suggested he rather take “appropriate action” against officials.

Public Servants Association KwaZulu-Natal manager Claude Naiker said the employees are worried evidence given in one hearing and published in the media could affect another hearing.

“It is in the best interest that we don’t allow media consent.”

Naiker said they might lose focus because of the “media hype”.

However, Naiker conceded, regardless of the hearings being published or not, it was possible the various disciplinary officers would share information anyway.

Media24’s lawyer Willem de Klerk said opposition to the media’s request was not unexpected.

“We would have to study the written submissions and will respond thereto next week.”

Media24 and Independent must reply by November 17, with a decision to be taken on November 19.

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