President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla residence. Photo: Doctor Ngcobo


KwaZulu-Natal - One of the contractors involved in the R250 million upgrade of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence has been accused of living a jet-set lifestyle – including driving sports cars and living in a luxurious house in Umhlanga – while scores of subcontractors have not been paid and face a bleak Christmas.

Thandeka Nene’s company, Bonelela Construction Enterprise and Projects, won a tender as part of the controversial revamp, which the Sunday Tribune understands was for the construction of a military-style private clinic with bullet-proof windows and 21 luxury thatched houses on an adjoining plot, which were completed in February.

However, after the Department of Public Works failed to pay her R8m, liquidators froze her accounts. She was not paid for six months, which sparked threats of legal action from creditors.

“My life has been hell… The government gives us jobs, but they destroy us by not paying us on time,” Nene, 40, said in an interview last month.

Although the Department of Public Works paid Nene in August, some of her sub-contractors were not.


Builder Goodman Ngcamphalala said he was owed R120 000 for work on Nkandla – and for work that he did for Nene on a hospital in Nquthu.


Ngcamphalala, whose Colt bakkie was repossessed by the bank when he could not keep up instalments, said he had been forced to sell some of his cars at “dirt cheap” prices to pay workers.

He said it was “painful” to see Nene living well when his own debts were piling up. Nene’s fleet of cars is said to include an Audi TT, an S500 Mercedes-Benz and two BMW sedans.


Nene dismissed Ngcamphalala’s claims. “He’s lying, it’s a blue lie. He was paid long ago. His work was not good and he cannot count.”

About other unpaid subcontractors, Nene said, “People are taking advantage of the fact that I build Nkandla.

“People who were not paid don’t have a problem. They know the procedure. Since Public Works delayed, there was liquidation and money is blocked, but it will be released.”


Another sub-contractor owed R40 000 said it was “shameful” that a project involving the president had placed people at a disadvantage.

“I had nine guys working for me. I owe them salaries.”

Sunday Tribune