The Special Tribunal convened to hear evidence against Nkandla architect and project manager, Minenhle Makhanya, is being heard in-camera.
The reason for this is to protect “highly confidential security information” relating to former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead being publicly disclosed, says Selby Makgotho, Special Tribunal spokesperson.
The tribunal, before Judge Kate Pillay, is sitting in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday.
The SIU instituted a civil law suit against Makhanya seeking to recover around R155 million that was spent on extensive “security upgrades” to the Nkandla homestead.
The SIU maintains that spending on the project which totalled in the region of R246 million was excessive and holds Makhanya responsible.
When the trial started on Monday, the SIU applied for the matter to proceed behind closed doors, and after hearing argument Judge Pillay ordered that the trial will be held in-camera.
Makgotho told The Witness at court that the SIU had brought the application “given the magnitude of security related details that will emerge which are confidential and will expose the former president to further security risks”.
The first witness on the stand is the chief forensic investigator for the SIU. Three witnesses are expected to be called on behalf of the SIU including an architect, quantity surveyor and forensic investigator, he said.
The Constitutional Court ordered in 2016 that Zuma himself had to pay back a reasonable percentage of costs incurred in respect of the controversial upgrades which were deemed not to be security related.
They included a visitors’ centre, amphitheatre, a cattle kraal, chicken run and a swimming pool which had been touted as a “fire pool” in respect of which national treasury said Zuma should pay R7,8 million. In September that year it was reported that treasury announced that Zuma had paid back the money he owed for the upgrades.