BY NATHI OLIFANT, JEFF WICKS and AGIZA HLONGWANE
Durban - The explanation provided by Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi and his band of security cluster ministers on President Jacob Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla does not add up.
The Department of Public Works investigation report on the president’s private residence that was released this week attempted to absolve Zuma of any wrongdoing in the more than R200 million Nkandlagate scandal.
And the most glaring inconsistency is that R52m was spent on relocating neighbours who posed a security threat – a claim refuted by Zuma’s brother, Michael.
It can be revealed that:
*Only one family was relocated, and that was Zuma’s elder brother, S’godo, whose house was demolished by mutual consent and rebuilt outside the homestead.
The report said that “neighbouring families” were removed from Zuma’s homestead at a cost of R52m as they posed a “security threat”.
But Zuma’s brother, Michael, said there was no such move.
“Let me tell you something. There is no such thing… The only house there belonged to our late brother, S’godo. He is the only one who was moved, and it was a family decision, not because of security reasons.”
In its presentation this week, the inter-ministerial task team said that “neighbouring families” could not remain where they were, as they were going to be an obstruction to the fence line, and they furthermore posed a challenge for the positioning of the surveillance cameras.
However, Michael also leapt to his brother’s defence.
“My brother has not stolen from anyone. We know him, and he has never stolen anything from anyone in his life. The problem is that there was money allocated for the construction of the house, and then prices increased and it went over the allocated budget.”
Michael said his brother was not the one responsible of the construction of the homestead.
Several sources in the KwaNxamalala rural village were adamant that no external neighbouring families were moved, because that land belonged to the Nxamala (Zuma) clan.
* Nxesi said in January, and again in July, that the matter was handed over to the Special Investigating Unit for investigation. A proclamation authorising the SIU to investigate the matter was only issued on Friday. But this week SIU spokesman Boy Ndala insisted they were not investigating anyone for wrongdoing.
“We will need to be issued with a proclamation, and the matter has to be gazetted in order for us to proceed with the investigation. So for now that has not happened, and we are not investigating the matter at the moment,” said Ndala.
Announcing the findings of an internal probe into the Nkandla upgrade in January, Nxesi said the report would be referred to law enforcement agencies, including the SIU. By August this year, after the report had been declassified, Public Works said the matter had been referred to the SIU.
This was denied by the SIU at the time, which said it was “watching” the probe by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela into Nkandla, but that the matter didn’t fall “within the scope of our investigation into Public Works”.
The SIU said this after it had identified and begun probing projects in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Public Works to the value of R902m. This had excluded the R206m security upgrades at Zuma’s home in Nkandla.
When asked in Parliament in July whether the SIU had been issued with a proclamation asking it to investigate the Nkandla scandal, Nxesi said it was up to Zuma.
When asked when the Public Works report on Nkandla was sent to the SIU, Nxesi’s spokesman, Phillip Masilo, said: “Soon after cabinet decided to declassify and make the report public.”
* It has also been established that AstroTurf soccer pitches built at the homestead were paid for by the KZN Department of Sports and Recreation, and not an NGO, as stated by Lieutenant-General Vejaynand Ramlakan, who had been tasked with strategic security for the homestead.
Ramlakan insisted at a media briefing that the soccer pitches had no implications for security and had been paid for by an unnamed NGO during the 2010 World Cup.
The fields are emblazoned with the department’s insignia, and came at a hefty cost of R4.2m.
Earlier this year, the media reports said that the department had splurged on the state-of-the-art fields, and even garnered a R650 000 donation from South African Breweries for their construction.
A spokesman for the department, Mluleki Mntungwa, said: “Initially, the site that was identified for the construction of the project was Lindela, which is approximately 7km from the president’s house.
“But the surveyor deemed the site not suitable for the construction of this project.
“The community, led by a local inkosi, identified the current site. The construction began in 2011.”
According to Mntungwa, the fields had been intended to benefit the entire community, even though they had been fenced off and closed since construction was completed.
He had said the project had been initiated after his department had received a request from local people.
“Once completed, it is going to be utilised by the entire community,” he said.
Public Works legal adviser Phillip Masilo this week scrambled to cover his tracks. In response to questions, Masilo said: “This was just a mistake – hence the surgeon-general qualified his answer by saying he stood to be corrected.
“What is fact is that the allegation in the media that a soccer field was built as part of he security upgrade is without basis and false.”