Nkandla pay shock
Five days before President Jacob Zuma called on executives to tighten their belts, the public works department approved payments of millions of rands to contractors developing Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla.
City Press is in possession of internal public works documentation showing that multimillion-rand payments to at least nine companies were authorised last Friday.
This comes two weeks after City Press revealed the extent of government’s more then R200 million splurge on Zuma’s private property.
Zuma this week called on executives in the public and private sectors to “tighten their belts as part of building a shared commitment to prosperity and growth”.
The documents further reveal:
» Thirty-one costly new buildings were constructed in the compound, with one contractor (who built six of them) charging public works R8 million per building;
» The state will pay R2.3 million for lifts to carry Zuma and his visitors between an underground bunker and the main houses;
» The installation of air conditioning systems in Zuma’s houses at a cost of R1.5 million to taxpayers will be paid for as part of security renovations; and
» A total of R3 million was spent on bulletproof glass for the compound.
This comes after Afrikaans daily Die Burger revealed this week that total costs for renovations to the Nkandla homestead had risen to R248 million.
In August 2010, public works told Parliament the project would cost R6.4 million.
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi defended the spending two weeks ago by saying a “frank assessment” of security at Zuma’s compound showed a “deep rural area in which there was basically none of the services we all take for granted in an urban area”.
The upgrades had to be done, Nxesi said, to accommodate the “security of dignitaries” when they visit Nkandla.
This happened despite massive upgrades to Zuma’s official residences in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town that have been undertaken since 2009.
The documents reveal R54 million has been spent at Nkandla just on consultants, including architects, a project manager, a quantity surveyor and engineers.
Payments to contractors started in December 2009 – seven months after Zuma was sworn in as president.
The final delivery date of the project is August 2013.
The biggest beneficiary of the Nkandla upgrade by far has been businesswoman Thandeka Nene’s Bonelena Construction Enterprise and Projects, which scored two building contracts worth R33.4 million and R66 million, respectively.
The R33.4 million contract was for “emergency work”, indicating the work did not go out on public tender.
A public works insider said it was common for projects in the department’s “prestige portfolio”, of which Nkandla is one, not to go out on tender.
The department had a list of approved service providers from which it chose companies to do the work.
Bonelena’s second contract, the cost of which increased from R55 million to R66 million, was for the construction of “25 new buildings” at R2.6 million each.
It’s unclear if the buildings are houses, but the weekly Mail & Guardian previously reported that the project included 20 houses for bodyguards.
Payments to Bonelena started in April last year, but the total spend was signed off last Friday by a public works official.
Nene told the Sunday Times last week her business was liquidated after public works failed to pay her R8 million for work done at Nkandla.
When City Press put it to her that her company in fact scored almost R100 million from the project, Nene, who has a penchant for German sedans and luxury holidays, said the figures were “not correct” and that she could not speak to us “because (she) signed confidentiality agreements”.
The Mail & Guardian reported last year that Bonelena employed Zuma’s niece, Khulubuse Zuma’s sister, as a manager on the project.
Nene said there was no Zuma in her company, but that she was “too far” from the work at Nkandla to know which people the company employed on-site.
Asked if she investigated whether Zuma’s niece worked for Bonelena after the report was published, Nene said she “didn’t have time for that”.
Moneymine 310, a company owned by businesswoman Pamela Mfeka, was contracted to construct six new buildings at the compound at a cost of R47.6 million, meaning each building cost R7.9 million.
It is unclear exactly which buildings the firm constructed.
A visitors centre, gymnasium and guest rooms were part of the project.
Mfeka runs Igugu Consulting, a company that provides human resources services and hosts corporate functions.
According to Zuma at a press briefing two weeks ago, his family paid for part of the construction.
He said: “When people see my house on the TV, they must be thinking that government has built this for me.
No. A large part of that … has been done by the family. How then this was done, I would not want to judge.”
It is still unclear exactly what expenses Zuma and his family will carry, but an earlier public works document put the figure at R10.6 million.
Despite numerous requests for comment, public works didn’t respond and referred City Press to Nxesi’s two-week-old statement.
Most of the 15 contractors who worked on the project also declined to comment, citing confidentiality clauses.
»Additional reporting by Paddy Harper