Johannesburg - It’s classified. Even the audit of the expenditure on what is now officially known as the Nkandla Security Project is a secret.
“You will never know how much was spent for all the presidents because it is classified,” said acting public works director-general Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie on Friday. “The Defence Act will take me to jail [if I disclosed that].”
And public works would not confirm the amounts spent for security and other developments at President Jacob Zuma’s rural homestead that media reports suggested would cost between R203 million and R238m, most if not all of it from taxpayers’ pockets.
On Sunday City Press reported that Zuma would pick up only five percent of a R203m tab, while the Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that costs could run to R238m – this on top of the R1 billion earmarked for a new town to be built in the Nkandla area through the Masibambisane rural development project chaired by Zuma.
Fatyela-Lindie was adam-ant: “We can’t confirm. That is classified information… Our legal interpretation of the Defence Act prohibits any official from releasing classified information.”
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi questioned the motives of leaks from his department – at a time when the ruling ANC opened nominations for leadership elections at its Mangaung conference.
“There’s no way we can classify the president’s residence [private or otherwise] like any other residence… unless you are in denial because it is a particular president.”
Nxesi also cited SA’s constitutionally-enshrined cultural diversity.
“We have to respect all cultures. The president comes from a rural area, not a city… and the president’s family, whether you accept the family or not, is in Nkandla, and it’s not a small family.”
Zuma’s Nkandla home and nine other presidential residences and those of former presidents were declared National Key Points by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on April 8, 2010, the presidency said on Friday.
The upgrade at Nkandla started in 2010. Briefing journalists in Parliament, Nxesi said it was a coincidence that the president’s personal funding of improvements at his rural homestead coincided with the official security upgrade.
Public works’s argument is that while the ministerial handbook limits spending on security at residences of public office bearers to R100 000, this was only one consideration as the same guidelines also referred to the need for security assessments.
“The approach to providing security at the Nkandla high risk area was based on a frank assessment of the security threat there and the requirements of the security forces.
“The security threat analysis pointed to a deep rural area in which there were basically none of the services we all take for granted in an urban area,” Nxesi said.
For this reason security arrangements included fences and barriers, “the relocation of pylons to allow a clear access flight path”, fire-fighting capacity at the Nkandla helipad, waterborne sewerage, roads, a clinic, guard houses and stations and “the creation of safe havens as with other sites all over the country”. - Saturday Star