Durban - The principal architect involved in the massive “security upgrades” at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, who is being sued by a state entity for more than R155 million, has filed a notice to oppose the civil claim.
Minenhle Makhanya’s lawyer, Barnabas Xulu, told the Daily News a notice to oppose the action brought by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had been filed with the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday.
He would not be drawn on the grounds for the defence, and has 20 days to lodge a response to the SIU’s suit.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had found that Makhanya had been appointed without a proper tender process.
In her report released in March, she said this happened despite Makhanya’s “non-security” background, and it was at this time that costs of the upgrades escalated, reaching R246m.
“The cost analysis shows that the Nkandla Project started from humble beginnings, but soon escalated by more than 200 percent within a year. It is also clear that the uncontrollable escalation took place once the decision-making powers shifted towards Mr Makhanya as the principal agent,” read the report.
The SIU, which investigates the abuse and corrupt use of state resources, was then tasked by Zuma to probe the Nkandla debacle, and filed suit against Makhanya last week, claiming that he was unlawfully awarded the contract, and that his conduct resulted in significant losses to the state.
Makhanya’s firm was paid R16.5m.
The embattled architect could also be called before a disciplinary tribunal of the profession’s regulatory body.
The spokesman for the SA Council for the Architectural Profession, Pappie Maja, told the Daily News on Monday that they had asked for a full report on the SIU’s findings pertaining to Makhanya. This would be tabled before the council next month for consideration, and possibly for the matter to be referred for investigation.
The council is responsible for, among other things, protecting the public against unprofessional conduct by registered persons.
In a press statement, Maja said the council must refer any matter brought against a registered person to an investigating committee where there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the member had committed an offence which might render him or her guilty of improper conduct.
Achitectural council president Yashaen Luckan said the council viewed the SIU report in relation to Makhanya’s alleged conduct with concern.
“If, after investigation and subsequent decision by council, a disciplinary tribunal is considered warranted, and the registered person is found guilty of charges brought against him, the act (Architectural Profession Act) provides for a range of sanctions that may be imposed,” he said.
“These range from caution or reprimand, the imposition of a fine, to cancellation of the registration of the registered person and the removal of his name from the register.”
According to the council’s website, a number of legal complaints against architectural professionals were lodged with the council between November 2005 and August 2010.
During this period, the council dealt with and closed 92 of these cases. There were no recent statistics.
Makhanya is also a member of the voluntary association SA Institute of Architects.
Although its marketing manager, Debbie Kirk, would not be drawn to comment on the Makhanya matter, she said members were expected to abide by the code of ethics and act professionally.
“Any project requires a brief, including a project budget, which is generally drawn up by the client, often with the assistance of the architect,” she said. “It is this brief which guides the architect as to nature of the work to be delivered.”