14 Nkandla consultants who cashed in on millions had ‘dodgy’ certificates: witness

Hearing to recoup R155m from architect in charge of Zuma homestead upgrade begins with damning evidence

27 September 2021 - 16:59 By TANIA BROUGHTON
The homestead belonging to former president Jacob Zuma is the subject of a hearing in the Pietermaritzburg high court.
The homestead belonging to former president Jacob Zuma is the subject of a hearing in the Pietermaritzburg high court.
Image: The Times

Fourteen consultants who worked on the project to upgrade former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead were found to have “fraudulent certificates” and there was evidence of overpayments and overcharging.

This was the evidence of a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) forensic investigator on Monday on the first day of the hearing in the Pietermaritzburg high court in which the unit is seeking to claw back about R155m from the man it says was in charge of the project, Durban architect Minenhle Makhanya.

What started out as an upgrade approved at a cost of R27m, ballooned to about R246m.

After a damning report by then public protector Thuli Madonsela, and a Constitutional Court ruling, Zuma eventually paid back R7.8m for “non-security related” upgrades.

These are believed to include a “fire pool”, amphitheatre, chicken run and helipad.

The hearing, before judge Kate Pillay, is being heard in camera at the request of the SIU, because confidential security information will be revealed about Zuma’s homestead.

Special Tribunal spokesperson Selby Makgotho is sitting in the hearing and has provided details of the evidence of the first witness, whose identity is being withheld.

Makhanya is unrepresented and has claimed he cannot afford a lawyer.

Makhanya is unrepresented and has claimed he cannot afford a lawyer.

The witness said Makhanya was the principal architect on the project.

National Treasury regulations required there to be proper planning and procurement of service providers but the investigation revealed several “deviations” from these.

One was that the department of public works did not ensure that services were sourced from the approved database in circumstances where there were no emergency conditions.

She said a R2m professional fee paid to the architect, based on his letter of appointment, was not justified and that Zuma’s family had wanted him appointed because he had done work at the homestead previously.

There was no open tender or competitive bidding for the job.

She said approval of the initial budget of R27.2m was given in August 2009 but it did not include security upgrades.

Former minister Geoff Doidge gave input at meetings to prepare for the rollout of these.

The amounts increased significantly after the former regional head of public works issued the request that the project begin.

A professional team was appointed to work with Makhanya but its members were not registered as consultants and it was not clear who appointed them.

At one point, Zuma raised concerns about the progress of the project with Doidge.

When the witness alleged that Makhanya was responsible for separating public and private funding for the project, he objected.

Judge Pillay said Makhanya would be given an opportunity to cross-examine the witness later.

The hearing will continue on Tuesday. The SIU is expected to call two other expert witnesses, including an architect and a quantity surveyor.

All evidence will be heard in camera.


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