The ‘Nkandlagate’ plot thickens. On Friday, the Mail and Guardian took a bold decision and published documents which tell the ‘behind-the-scenes’ version of events leading up to the scandal now known as ‘Nkandlagate’. The documents were obtained by the investigative wing of the Mail and Guardian called ‘AmaBhungane’. These papers read like a thriller with secret meetings and intriguing twists to the tale of President Jacob Zuma’s home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
It is reported that the Department of Public Works decided to foot the bill for the renovations to the president’s home including paying for upgrades that were not in any way related to security. The budget for landscaping alone was set at R 14.3 million which saw to the president’s need for a tree nursery on his compound. The renovations make provision for a kraal for livestock which took a R 1 million rand chunk out of the budget estimated to be around R 200 million. President Jacob Zuma has the option to use elevators in his home and because open windows are a security hazard, the renovations also include an extensive air-conditioning system.
At first, the contractors who submitted their bids for this massive project were not given any information about the client and the exact location of the project. And when they were eventually made privy to this information, they were sworn to secrecy by means of secrecy oaths that were signed before each meeting relating to the renovations.
The Nkandla project has been categorized as a “prestige project” which means that the manner in which it is handled may be outside the norm in order to “ensure security”. The Mail and Guardian managed to get access to a confidential memo written by Kenneth Khanyile who is the Public Works Department Durban Regional Manager. The memo is addressed to seniors in his department and it is dated 15 March 2012.
It was in this memo that Khanyile proposed “that the project be removed from the public eye due to security reasons”. Khanyile was extremely concerned about how the opposition and journalists would interpret and use information about the project. He feared that there might be information which may be useful to “enemies of the state to render an attack”. Kenneth Khanyile said: “These projects are further targeted by journalists in an attempt to discredit the government in general.”
In the memo, Khanyile basically outlines how to go about ensuring secrecy throughout the project. Of particular interest is that Khanyile clearly states that his office would not submit any of the project details for “auditing until clear directive has been received”.
Thuli Madonsela, the Public Protector, has received the official report on the renovations at Zuma’s Nkandla home. Security is high on her priority list too. She said that she would release the report once she had reviewed it and removed certain information that may jeopardize the security of those mentioned in it.