President Jacob Zuma's private residence in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

As an advertising man, I love great adverts. I am not of course speaking about FNB’s adverts which have been a national point of discussion for the last week.

Britain’s The Economist has produced some of the greatest print adverts over the past 20 years. One had simple white text on a red background. It read, “I never read The Economist,” and, at the bottom of the quotation, “Management trainee. Aged 42.” Simply brilliant.

One Economist ad had the line, “Leave no answer unquestioned.” We have had answers from a press briefing attended by several ministers about Nkandla; answers which demand even more questions.

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi told the briefing that operational needs for state departments amounted to R135 208 022.58, including consultancy fees, and security upgrades amount to R71 212 621.79, also with consultancy fees. The money spent on the residences of Mandela, Mbeki and De Klerk all cost less than Nkandla – put together.

What are these operational needs? Why did they have to cost more than the amount spent on the security upgrades of the residence?

Nxesi said information has been bandied about in public about funds involved in security upgrades, figures of over R200 million, yet it cost R76m, he said. The minister is splitting hairs. The figures of R135 208 022.58 and R71 212 621.79 certainly add up to over R200m.

Nxesi said the findings show there’s no evidence public money was spent to build Zuma’s Nkandla residence, or any house for him. The money spent by the state was only for security purposes. According to the Mail & Guardian, a document reveals Zuma’s private contribution to the building of Nkandla dwindled from R20m to R10m. How did his personal contribution dwindle by so much?

According to the ministers, supply chain management policies were not followed. This means some department manager is likely to take the fall. If any wrongdoing took place, someone must take the fall, no matter how far up the ladder. Again, according to the ministers, findings show there were a number of irregularities with regards to the appointment of service providers, and they will be investigated.

Minister Nxesi said the president was not involved, but did not clarify in what capacity. Maybe this paragraph from the Mail & Guardian on November 23 last year will raise more questions about the president’s lack of involvement:

“Perhaps the most damning of the documents is a letter addressed to Zuma in which the then newly appointed public works minister, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, writes: ‘I have taken the view that it is prudent to update you on the progress of the above prestige project’, before giving expected completion dates for 17 individual components of construction. The letter contains a detailed progress report from the project managers overseeing the work.”

We need to know what the minister meant when he said the president was not involved, as the letter by the then public works minister appears to contradict his “lack of involvement”. Granted, we have no correspondence from the president showing his involvement.

We have to leave no answer unquestioned in this whole affair.