You owe us

20 March 2014 - 02:01 By Sipho Masombuka
PIECE OF WORK: Public protector Thuli Madonsela tells journalists at her office in Pretoria yesterday that President Jacob Zuma failed to discharge his responsibilities as the guardian of public resources
PIECE OF WORK: Public protector Thuli Madonsela tells journalists at her office in Pretoria yesterday that President Jacob Zuma failed to discharge his responsibilities as the guardian of public resources

Cabinet ministers rallied around President Jacob Zuma yesterday in the wake of public protector Thuli Madonsela's damning report on the use of taxpayers' money to fund his lavish Nkandla homestead.

Zuma was instructed to pay back an as yet undetermined percentage of the R246-million spent on security upgrades to his private home.

In her explosive 443-page report titled "Secure in Comfort", Madonsela found that Zuma and his immediate family improperly benefited from measures implemented in the "name of security", including a visitors' centre, a swimming pool, an amphitheatre and a cattle kraal with culvert, and chicken run. The private medical clinic will also benefit the family in perpetuity.

Madonsela's report has prompted opposition parties to ask for an urgent sitting of the National Assembly to initiate impeachment proceedings against Zuma. They will also file criminal charges against him and state officials today.

Presenting her long-awaited report, Madonsela said she had found that Zuma not only knew about the fancy upgrades but personally requested the construction of the cattle kraal and changes to the design of the bullet-proof windows. In addition to his private architect, Minenhle Makhanya - who Madonsela found benefited to the tune of R16.2-million - a private project manager was appointed at a cost of R5-million after Zuma twice complained in 2010 about the slow progress of construction.

Madonsela found that though Zuma might not have wilfully misled parliament in 2012 when he said taxpayers did not pay for any of his houses, his failure to protect state resources violated the Executive Ethics Code.

Madonsela did not give the specific amount Zuma must repay.

She recommended that the National Treasury and the South African Police Service determine the "reasonable cost" that does not relate to security. Zuma will have to pay a percentage of an estimated R78.7-million. By the time Madonsela completed her investigation, the total spent on Nkandla had escalated to R246- million from R27-million.

She said Zuma had failed to apply his mind to the contents of the declaration of his private residence as a National Key Point. He had failed to implement security measures at his own expense, as directed by the National Key Point Act, or to approach the minister of police for a variation declaration.

Zuma had failed to discharge his responsibilities as the guardian of public resources and as beneficiary of public privileges and resources, Madonsela said.

"I believe the president should ideally have asked questions regarding the scale, cost and affordability of the Nkandla project."

Zuma might have also benchmarked the extent of the upgrades with his colleagues, she said.

Other key findings include:

  • The initial estimated cost for a modest bunker was less than R500000, but the changes made when Makhanya became involved resulted in an initial estimate of R8-million for bunkers, and the subsequent "guzzling" of about R19-million for a spatial design;
  • What the ministerial task team said was a retaining wall with steps was, in fact, an amphitheatre;
  • Five households at Nkandla did not pose any risk but were relocated at a cost of R8-million. This took place despite the suggestion by former deputy minister of public works Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu that RDP houses be built for the families. This could have cost less than R2-million. The amount spent on the relocation could have built 40 RDP houses;
  • It was of grave concern that the document detailing the apportioning of the costs of upgrades to Zuma, which Bogopane-Zulu had requested, vanished and she was unceremoniously ejected from the project;
  • The clinic, helipads and staff homes addressed a real need but Madonsela found no reason why these were not located in a way that would benefit the entire impoverished community
  • Seven teams of professional consultants were involved, at a cost of R50.3-million, for phases 1 and 2;
  • The ministers of police and of public works acted improperly and failed to follow several legislative prescripts; and
  • Funds were reallocated from the public works Inner City Regeneration and the Dolomite Risk Management programmes to fund the Nkandla upgrades.

Mandonsela recommended that Zuma reprimand all the ministers involved in the Nkandla project.

He has to report within 14 days to the National Assembly his comment and action on the report.

Despite Madonsela's findings, ministers in the security cluster have insisted that Zuma's swimming pool and kraal were essential features of his security.

She said the president had, during her investigation, even offered to repay public money used to build the kraal and culvert, which suggested that such a structure was not a security feature.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, responding to Madonsela's report, said it was still the government's view that things like the "fire pool' were crucial to security at Nkandla. "The retaining wall, cattle kraal and culvert, fire pool, and water reservoir, accommodation for security personnel and visitors waiting area are all essential security features, which ensure physical and effective operation of security management," Radebe said at a short press conference in Pretoria.

They were "critical" in the timeous delivery of security to the president, he said.

Only the president could address the damning findings against the ministers of public works and of police for their role in the Nkandla scandal, Radebe said.

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi and Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa attended the press conference but chose not to speak or answer or questions.

Additional reporting by Thabo Mokone

Lighter side of Nkandla

@ejaz_k: BREAKING NEWS: Jacob Zuma has appointed Barry Roux to put it to Thuli Madonsela.

@Majola008: Imagine if JZ decides to challenge the Nkandla Report in court, at our expense, just to screw us further.

@keThaboM Are you still voting for the party you wanted to vote for before the report?

@Purple_Tee: I'm sure Zuma wishes he was in that missing plane.

@TruthExtractor: If in China, Zuma would have to commit suicide or be hanged by end of today.

@colin_macguire: Zuma should be impeached and be investigated by SARS.

@seapointJew: Mrs Segal says that throwing peaches at the president won't solve anything.

@Pimp_Thami: Nkandla report is out of the way. Now ANC can focus on winning elections by a majority.

@yebo_levy: If you thought #BarryRoux was a spin doctor, let's wait for the master himself. Your move, Mac Maharaj.