Evidence of millions wasted on non-security upgrades at Nkandla as architect tries to change plea

Upgrades to the homestead of former president Jacob Zuma are the subject of legal dispute in the Pietermaritzburg high court.
Upgrades to the homestead of former president Jacob Zuma are the subject of legal dispute in the Pietermaritzburg high court.

Millions of rand were frittered away, without any official authorisation, on “non-security” upgrades at former president Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead.

And when there was authorisation, the public works official who signed off said he was “pressured from above” to do so.

This was the evidence on Wednesday of a senior Special Investigating Unit investigator, who is testifying at  the special tribunal before judge Kate Pillay in a hearing in which the unit seeks to hold lead architect Minenhle Makhayna financially responsible for what became a controversial project costing more than R200m.

The hearing, in the Pietermaritzburg high court, is being held behind closed doors because details of security at Zuma’s homestead are being disclosed.

However, tribunal spokesperson Selby Makgotho is providing details of the evidence.

Makhanya, who is unrepresented, asked for an adjournment to amend his plea but judge Pillay refused his request. She said she had cautioned him in July this year that she would not grant any further postponements in the matter.

The witness, who has not been named, has repeatedly stated that only R27.8m was approved for the upgrades. And yet R4.9m was spent on a basement parking garage which could not be used at all because it was not accessible for any vehicles.

There was no written approval for this, the witness said. Public works project manager Jean Rindel, when questioned by investigators, said he had “no idea” of its purpose. Neither the police nor the defence force approved it and it was not a “security requirement”.

A clinic which cost R8m was not fitted with any equipment. Lt-Gen Vejaynand Indurjith Ramlakan, former surgeon-general, had expressed concerns about its location and its design.

An SIU-appointed quantity surveyor had recommended that about R700,000, as a result of overdesign, be recovered from Makhanya.

The bunker, designed by Makhanya, was also not part of the scope of work and in the police and SANDF plans, both stated that they did not need it or the tunnel leading to it. Due to the design of the bunker, lifts had to be installed “given the advanced age of some of Zuma’s family members”.

Twenty additional units for staff at Nkandla were included in the plan and approved by Makhyana, she said.

This would have been authorised only if there had been an open tender and “due process” which was not done.

Again, this was not a security requirement.

There was also no security need for a “visitors' lounge” which, she said, “was a private request” to accommodate the “masses of people” who visited Zuma.

She said R3m was paid for the “design” of a  45,000-litre firepool “in case of a fire outbreak” and the design of VIP parking with a motorised garage door and parking for nine vehicles.

She said the investigation revealed that the decision to build the pool had already been made before the SAPS presenting its security risk assessment report, which did not stipulate the need for it, and the SANDF had not requested VIP parking.

The relocation of four rondavels, considered to be in a “high risk” area of the homestead, could have cost R55,000. However, they ultimately cost R10.6m.

A further R8.8m was spent on tarring two roads leading to the homestead while the public works department had budgeted R448,000 for this.

Makhanya personally signed off a R4m bill for air conditioning in three private areas when the approved amount was R152,000.

While three police guardhouses and a tuck shop were budgeted to cost R500,000, Makhanya “over-designed them”, driving the cost up to R2.5m.

The witness said Rindel had said he had signed off on some of the projects because he was “following instructions” from the former minister of public works, the former deputy minister and the director-general.

“Rindel placed huge reliance on the expertise of Makhanya and processed the payments as he later told investigators that it was at the instruction of people above him,” the witness said. “The department paid every bill they received and did no due  diligence in  verifying that  the work was done.”

Makhanya is expected to begin cross-examining the witness on Thursday.


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