22 July 2024 | 04:36 AM

Number One emerges a clear winner

Key Takeaways

President Jacob Zuma’s contribution to the Nkandla bonanza was massaged downwards and he is now expected to pay for just 5% of the security-related improvements at his private residence.

A top-secret March 2011 memo split the bill by allocating ­R203-million to the public purse and R10.5-million for Zuma.

The document frets that “it may be necessary for these issues to be discussed with the principal [Zuma] as the financial implication directly affects him”.

A “preliminary cost estimate” that was not included in the Nkandla files obtained by amaBhungane but was leaked to the media last year indicates that at one stage Zuma’s “private” costs stood at R22.5-million.

The “apportionment of costs” was a touchy subject throughout the Nkandla upgrade project and many documents appear to have been omitted from the files obtained by amaBhungane.

The department allocated non-security related expenses — such as sewerage installations, a cattle ­culvert, a rubbish compaction unit and two-thirds of the landscaping — to the state.

A security contractor also motivated that costs such as air conditioning in areas that “preclude the opening of windows”, elevators and fire-fighting equipment were security-related, and, therefore, not Zuma’s problem.

A decision was later taken by the department to find millions more for air conditioning even in “low … security areas” and to fund the entire landscaping budget.

The landscaping contractor had quoted R14.3-million for the work, which included R840 000 for a “level terrace created for a function marquee”.

The justification offered was that “functions are normally for heads of state and managed by DPW [department of public works]”.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj failed to respond to ­questions about whether any such functions have been held at Nkandla and whether Zuma has made any contribution to the costs at all.

The contractor quoted a further R1-million for a new livestock kraal.

Prestige kraal

“This kraal is of a higher quality than what was previously on site; however, the new kraal brings the project [into] line with prestige projects [the department of public work’s categorisation of the Nkandla project],” the contractor said.

Also included in the landscaping was a tree nursery.
A quantity surveyor, who watched his cost estimates go up in smoke, wrote: “Given the nature of the project, I honestly don’t think that spending this amount of money on landscaping is justifiable but, having said that, the decision still rests with the client.”

In the months that followed, the question of how to split the bill went all the way “to top management”, was “revised several times” and a committee was appointed “to make the final decision on this matter”.

Their decision? A further ­R3.84-million to be added to the taxpayer’s already astronomical financial commitment.

The official who approved the variation order (an appeal for money after unexpected costs overrun planned costs) scribbled underneath that “funds should be spent strictly on security measures at the private residence of the principal”.

But the horse had already bolted, out the kraal, via the nursery, and away through the verdant rolling landscaping.


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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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