Nkandla swoop begins

2014-08-12 00:00

STATE investigators have begun to swoop on a contractor involved in the R246 million “security upgrade” at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.

The Special Investigating Unit was tasked by the president to investigate after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s damning report of her probe into the project.

The unit said late yesterday that they were “in the process of instituting a civil claim against one of the principal service providers who was engaged to effect the security upgrades at the president’s private residence in Nkandla”.

The unit, which investigates the abuse and corrupt use of state resources, said the details of the claim were contained in papers lodged at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

The papers could not be immediately obtained by The Witness and SIU spokesperson Boy Ndala would provide no further information on who was targeted in their court application and what was being claimed.

A primary character in the Nkandla saga highlighted in Madonsela’s “Secure in Comfort” investigation report was the president’s personal architect Minenhle Makhanya of Durban.

Contacted yesterday by The Witness and asked if he was aware of the move by the SIU, Makhanya said after a pause: “No comment”. He then cut the call.

Madonsela noted in her report that: “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.”

Makhanya’s firm was paid R16,5 million for its role in the project.

“The court papers are with the attorneys who are representing the SIU in this matter and even if I wanted to release them I couldn’t. They must be sought from the court,” said Ndala.

He refused to be drawn on which principal contractor was the target of the graft-busting agency’s court bid.

Bonelena Construction’s Thandeka Nene, one of the other contractors named in the Public Protector’s report, told The Witness she had not been informed about the papers.

“I know nothing about the papers and my lawyer should have informed me about them if they involved us,” said Nene.

Makhanya was brought in in 2009 to act as the Public Works Department’s principal agent while retaining his position as Zuma’s private architect.

Among the upgrades to the sprawling compound under his commission was a cattle kraal, chicken coop, a swimming pool, underground bunkers and an amphitheatre.

The report found that his appointment was improper and did not satisfy legal requirements, and that Makhanya had no security clearance.

He recently landed another multi-million rand contract to design Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini’s eighth palace in KwaNobamba near Ulundi, pending approval from the Environmental Affairs Department as the location is in the eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park.

Madonsela’s spokesperson Kgalalelo Mabisi did not respond to written questions at the time of going to press last night.

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