Politics / 23 March 2013, 1:22pm / BIANCA CAPAZORIO
Cape Town - The cost of the controversial upgrading of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead has been revised upwards – from R206 million to R208m.
This was revealed by Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi when he and his deputy Jeremy Cronin, and the department’s top managers appeared before Parliament’s Standing Committee on public accounts (Scopa) this week.
DA MP Dion George asked how much was spent in 2011/12 on Nkandla. Nxesi admitted that the total spending had increased by R2m to R208m, but said he did not have a breakdown for the financial years. This could, however, be obtained.
The department asserted that there had been “serious inflation of the construction work” at Nkandla.
Cronin said: “There could well be problems of inflation of scope, in the name of security”.
The department has insisted that the work done at the president’s private home was limited to security upgrades, although there have been reports of a tuck shop, lift and other upgrades.
Cronin said the department wanted to “get to the bottom of this issue”, but could not release information in a public meeting, since much of the detail involved presidential security.
“We know how much we spent, and what for. But we all read newspapers and some of it does seem strange. We want Parliament to interrogate this, but it is hard to complete the discovery in public.”
Nxesi said all projects in the department, including the presidential upgrade, had been affected by over-inflation, corruption and collusion.
“There is a trend that we’re seeing in Nkandla, that we see with all our projects, of collusion. It’s common knowledge that the Competition Commission is looking into collusion around the construction of the World Cup stadia. This is a trend we’re seeing in construction worldwide”.
He said the Nkandla issue had been politicised.
“Once the tone becomes political, it’s not on issues of compliance any more. Unfortunately we can’t play politics when it comes to the security of the head of state.”
Zuma answered questions about Nkandla in the National Assembly on Wednesday, when DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko accused him of “tap dancing” around the issue, and produced a copy of a letter about the upgrading of Nkandla purportedly addressed to him by then Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde.
The letter lists various “activities”, including a cattle culvert, tuck shop, excavation for a clinic, tunnel, and safe haven, but does not include the costs for these.
Zuma told Mazibuko: “No letter has ever been received by me”.
He refused to discuss further details as the report on a Public Works internal probe had been referred to Parliament, which is still to decide how it will deal with the document without compromising Zuma’s security.
Zuma did, however, explain that a tuck shop run by his wife
had stood in the centre of the family’s homestead, but had
been deemed a security threat. Officials had decided it should be moved to the gate.
Opposition parties have demanded that the Nkandla report be discussed publicly, and DA MP Anchen Dreyer has revealed the names of several companies involved in the upgrade to the National Assembly.