President Jacob Zuma's private architect Minenhle Makhanya. Photo: Supplied

 Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma’s private architect Minenhle Makhanya has scored a lucrative deal to build Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s multimillion-rand eighth palace in uLundi, KwaZulu-Natal.

Makhanya got another high-profile client, through his company Minenhle Makhanya Architects, and will be one of the key people behind the construction of the re-established 20 hectares KwaNobamba Royal Residence in the eMakhosini Valley, which developers say is the birthplace of the Zulu nation.

Upon completion, the palace is expected to have a capital value of R34 million, according to documents obtained by The Sunday Independent this week.

The royal family says the construction of the residence will be funded through “private Zulu royal family funds”.

On Saturday, Makhanya declined to comment on his involvement in the construction of the residence.

The Zulu Royal Family receives more than R63m a year for its upkeep and last year an extra R12m was set aside for major renovations, upgrades, refurbishment and repairs to the king’s seven existing palaces.

The national Arts and Culture Department has set aside R300m to upgrade the king’s eNyokeni palace for the annual reed dance festivities.

Makhanya, who had made R16.5m from Zuma’s Nkandla project by the time Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s concluded her investigation into the R248m upgrade of the president’s homestead, is listed as the project’s architect and will design and layout the KwaNobamba Royal Residence.

He will also be responsible for crafting the budget for the construction and provision of tender documents, which will be prepared by a quantity surveyor.

Academic and linguist Dr John Thulani Mbuli is the project manager for the construction and Zwelithini’s representative in the project.

KwaNobamba is the ancestral home of King Jama kaNdaba, the grandfather of King Senzangakhona, King Shaka’s father.

The eMakhosini Valley is sacred in Zulu folklore and is the gravesite of previous Zulu kings.

Among the motivating factors for the development of the eMakhosini Valley is that it can provide economic upliftment for the people of Zululand while at the same time ensuring the respect and reverence due to those who lived, loved, fought, died and lie buried there, and contribute to the tourist value of the area.

King Zwelithini already has palaces in eNyokeni, KwaDlamahlahla, KwaKhangela, KwaKhethomthandayo, Linduzulu, Ingwavuma and Ondini.

KwaNobamba will include nine thatched roof huts arranged in a circle surrounding a cattle kraal.

A source close to the development told The Sunday Independent that the huts would be similar to the ones in Zuma’s Nkandla homestead and Makhanya’s Meseni farm in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal.

It will also include a main residence, a central cattle enclosure, a prayer unit and guard houses.

The residence will be designed to work entirely on solar power with a back-up generator.

A basic assessment report of the KwaNobamba Royal Residence, seen by The Sunday Independent, warns that if the development does not go ahead it will be a “lost opportunity for the Zulu royal family to return to the birthplace of the Zulu nation and to create a living heritage”.

“The Zulu royal family would also not realise their dream of returning to the birthplace of their nation and establishing a royal residence there,” the report warns.

Makhanya was the principal agent for the president’s private Nkandla home and served as the go-between between the government officials and Zuma, who left it to him to discuss designs and explain his preferences. Madonsela found that Makhanya was often asked for more economic designs but would come back with something more expensive or even luxurious, saying that it was a security need despite being more costly.

When Madonsela and her investigators conducted an in loco inspection of Zuma’s homestead, Makhanya struggled to explain items such as the amphitheatre, the kraal, which includes a chicken run and a cattle culvert, the visitors’ centre, swimming pool, extensive paving and the relocation, at state expense, of the president’s neighbours.

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Sunday Independent