POLITICAL pressure mounted yesterday on the government to make public a Public Works task team’s report which found R206 million had been spent on President Jacob Zuma’s private home at Nkandla.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said Zuma should “come clean” on whether or not he saw a letter addressed to him in November 2010 by the Public Works minister, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, whom he later sacked.
Initially published by City Press and the Mail & Guardian, and now in the public domain, the letter, addressed to Zuma, is a progress report on work at Nkandla and lists improvements that were being made.
These included the supply of water, electricity and a sewage treatment plant; a helipad, clinic, tuck shop, guard room, cattle culvert, bullet-proof and high-impact windows, a tunnel and “safe haven” as well as inner and outer security fencing.
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi – along with Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele – have insisted that Zuma was not aware of the cost of the exercise, which is likely to escalate further.
The letter to Zuma does not reflect the cost of the various items, but merely states that the funds for security and related matters would come from Public Works, while “direct contracts” would be for Zuma’s personal account.
Mazibuko said she would submit a series of parliamentary questions to Zuma to try to establish “the true extent of his involvement”.
“This correspondence directed to Mr Zuma clearly contradicts the Minister of Public Works’ (Thulas Nxesi) concerted campaign to prove that the now secret Nkandlagate report ‘vindicates’ him of all wrongdoing.
“Instead of answering key questions about President Zuma’s involvement, it targets low-ranking officials in the department.
“It is a slap in the face of accountability and transparency,” Mazibuko said.
She said South Africans deserved “to know the truth”.
“When public money is abused for the unnecessary benefit of a sitting president, it has the potential severely to undermine trust in public institutions in general, and in the government in particular.
“Our constitution sets out clearly the ethics and principles upon which our democratic South Africa is founded,” she said. “It is about time Mr Zuma took these seriously and did what is right: come clean on Nkandla now.”
On Sunday Nxesi cited security issues as the reason for withholding the report.
He said it would be handed to law enforcement agencies for further investigation and possible criminal charges against officials who had flouted procedures, giving rise to the many irregularities uncovered by the probe, which also found that R48m of the R206m bill had been spent on consultancy fees.
The IFP and the Freedom Front Plus yesterday added their voices to calls by the DA, Cope and the African Christian Democratic Party for the report to be tabled in Parliament, where the public spending watchdog, the standing committee on public accounts, is also delving into the matter.
IFP MP Petros Sithole said not enough information was provided at the briefing.
“The minister’s vague and superfluous rendition of the report… failed to provide exact details about the renovation of President Zuma’s home,” he said yesterday.
Parliament needed to be provided with a “detailed account of each and every single cent spent in this waste of taxpayers’ money”.
“The issue of withholding this report away from public, shows that there are more secrets behind this issue, which the minister is not willing to be seen by the public,” said Sithole. 8P7