Nkandla report stirs up a hornet’s nest
Cape Town – DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko yesterday moved on her vow to fight to have the public works report on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence made public.
“I will today submit an application, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), to gain access to the now secret ‘Nkandlagate’ report,” she said in a statement.
A formal request had also been made to Manana Mabuza, the chairperson of Parliament’s public works portfolio committee, to have the report tabled and discussed in the committee.
Mazibuko called on President Jacob Zuma to “do the right thing and intervene to ensure that his government tables the report in Parliament for proper scrutiny and debate”.
She said if he failed to do so, she would table the report herself, having gained access to the document through her PAIA application.
“I will table the report myself, as I am empowered to do as a member of the National Assembly.”
Announcing some details of his department’s report on Sunday, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said it would remain secret and would not be released lest security details of the Nkandla homestead became public.
However, he confirmed to journalists at the time that more than R200m had been spent on the homestead complex - R71m directly on security and R135m on operational costs incurred by state departments involved in upgrading the property.
Mazibuko said on Monday Zuma must come clean on whether he saw a letter outlining security upgrades for his private Nkandla home.
“If he did see the letter, then he must further clarify why he did not take any steps to address the unnecessarily excessive expenses set out in the letter... and whether he accordingly made any enquiries as to their cost,” Mazibuko said in a statement.
“If he did not see the letter, then he must explain how it is reasonable for the head of the executive to ignore correspondence directed at him by one of his departments, and why he took no active steps to familiarise himself with the details of an upgrade to his own private residence.”
Signed on November 5 2010 by former public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde - four days after she had been appointed by Zuma - a letter updates Zuma on progress with the multimillion-rand project.
Nxesi said on Monday Zuma had not been involved in the project.
He told 702 radio on Monday night that there is no reason why the Task Team should have interviewed Zuma and, so, they did not. He also confirmed that no other Public Works officials had briefed the President about spending related to Nkandla. The details of procurement, Nxesi insisted, did not concern Zuma.
In her letter to Zuma, Mahlangu-Nkabinde said it was “prudent” to update him on progress on the matter.
She then lists several areas paid for by public works, including a cattle culvert, guardhouse and tuck shop and the relocation of families whose houses had to be demolished for the project.
City Press first reported on Mahlangu-Nkabindes letter on November 24 last year’.
Nxesi said irregularities occurred in the procurement of services and that disciplinary action would be instituted against public works officials.
Nxesi further referred his report to the special investigating unit, the police and the auditor general.
Also included in the total was R26m to make changes to the project (variation orders).
State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said neither Zuma nor his family had any input on the security upgrade.
“They were not involved with the design and installation of security measures.”
Nxesi said Zuma was informed of the security upgrades, but did not know any of the details.
‘Slap in the face of accountability’
Mazibuko said the letter contradicted Nxesi’s “concerted campaign” to prove that the report on Nkandla vindicated Zuma.
“Instead of answering key questions about President Zuma’s involvement, it targets low-ranking officials in the department. It is a slap in the face of accountability and transparency,” she said on Sunday.
The Freedom Front Plus and the Christian Democratic Party questioned the amount spent on Nkandla.
FF Plus spokesperson on public works Pieter Groenewald said: “It is possible to have effective security measures put in place for far less than the amount mentioned.”
Groenewald said the full report should be made public. Nxesi said it would not because the residence was a national key point.