Zuma denies interfering with or threatening SIU investigators

2014-09-13 00:00

WHILE keeping the president safe in his Nkandla home was a source of “joy”, the odd threat in his name allegedly moved the security upgrades along.

But President Jacob Zuma claims he never interfered.

“Because we are dealing with the first citizen of the Republic of South Africa … we need to move with expedience, with extreme joy and gladness,” Sam Mahadeo, Public Works chief construction project manager on the Nkandla security upgrades, was quoted as saying in the Special Investigating Unit final report.

Mahadeo was project manager until 2010 when Jean Rindel took over the job.

Both officials are cited as using the president’s name in the SIU report while others interviewed spoke of “political interference”.

Some officials said they had been threatened by then Public Works minister Geoff Doidge and the then deputy minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu.

“The thrust of these threats were that if the president’s life was endangered because of delays in the implementation of the upgrading process Public Works officials would be held responsible and could be redeployed or lose their jobs,” the report reflected officials saying.

Both ministers denied making such threats to SIU investigators.

While the SIU said it was unable “to determine which version to accept” they were not precluded from “raising a concern” and pointed out that “very early on in the upgrading process the president introduced his private professional team” to Public Works Department officials.

It was soon after this that Doidge “urged” that the private renovations being undertaken by the Zuma family and the “public upgrading process being undertaken by Public Works be co-ordinated”.

Various people interviewed by the SIU said the president “issued instructions on what was to be done” and made known his “preferences”.

Details of these statements were sent by the SIU to Zuma in a “detailed memorandum” to allow him an “opportunity to respond”.

These included questions about several items, including landscaping, interior design, Zuma’s preferences for certain contractors and whether separate cost structures for items to his account or public works had been kept.

Zuma responded in a three-page letter in which he said he was not present at any of the meetings at “which certain views, opinions and comments were ascribed to him”.

Zuma said that if government officials “laboured under the impression” that he was the origin of any “undue pressure being brought to bear” they should have reported such “improper conduct” to the institutions established to “deal with such conduct.”

The SIU said their mandate was to identify “probable wrongdoers” and to recommend whether disciplinary or criminal action be taken against any of them.

They instituted a claim against the project’s architect Minenhle Mkhanya to recover R155 million.

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