Tuesday, December 10, 2013
AN INTER-ministerial report about controversial security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home in KwaZulu-Natal will not be released this week as planned, the government said on Monday.
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi and security-cluster ministers were scheduled to release the report at a media briefing on Tuesday, said acting government spokeswoman Phumla Williams.
"However, in view of preparations for the state funeral of former president Nelson Mandela, the government is unable to release the report this week," she said.
The Cabinet ordered the release of the initially top secret report on Thursday.
The decision followed an attack by the African National Congress (ANC) on Public Protector Thuli Madonsela about the timing of her own report on the R206m upgrade at Mr Zuma’s private homestead.
"(We have) endorsed the recommendations and directed that the report be released to the public," the Cabinet said last week.
Earlier this year, Mr Nxesi classified the report, saying it would put Mr Zuma’s safety at risk if released.
A parliamentary committee’s findings on the report indicated that it exculpated Mr Zuma finding no evidence that taxpayers’ money had been used to pay for his private home — as he has insisted in statements to the National Assembly.
The Mail & Guardian reported that Ms Madonsela’s preliminary report found Mr Zuma had misled Parliament and benefited substantially from about R20m worth of work that had nothing to do with security features, including a swimming pool.
The story led to the ANC accusing Ms Madonsela of leaking the preliminary report and pressing her to release the final version urgently, or be accused of playing politics if it emerged too close to next year’s general elections.
Ms Madonsela condemned the leak.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
The ANC continued its offensive against Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday, hammering her for “leaks” of reports from her office, which it said undermined her office and also harmed those being investigated.
But she hit back, saying she was the victim of a campaign to “delegitimise” her office, led by senior leaders of the ANC-led tripartite alliance.
However, she was willing to meet the ANC as the party was not able to be part of a session she had with stakeholders earlier this year.
She said she would not pursue criminal charges against those who leaked or published her provisional Nkandla report on the R206 million worth of security upgrades of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, even though it was unlawful to do so.
She had no capacity and resources to pursue the culprits because her hands were full already, she told a media briefing.
“If I were to lay criminal charges, I would have to take the entire (media) industry to court. That would mean my entire life…,” Madonsela said.
She added that she had decided “to stop the opportunity for leakages”.
She singled out ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, his deputy, Jessie Duarte, and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande as the ringleaders of a campaign to “delegitimise” her office. She stopped short of labelling them liars.
Madonsela denied Mantashe’s claims that she had leaked the controversial report. She also rejected the ANC’s claim that she deliberately sat on a complete Nkandla report with a view to releasing it on the eve of next year’s general elections.
Ministers in the security cluster took Madonsela to court last month over the release of the provisional report. They said some aspects in the report revealed sensitive security issues around Zuma.
Madonsela will share the report with security experts provided by the ministers to ensure there are no security breaches.
Madonsela said she and her staff had no reason to leak reports, because that would only erode her office’s credibility.
“I don’t know who leaked it. It’s only the media houses who would know who leaked it. I have no reason to suspect that the leak was from my office.”
She shared Mantashe’s view that provisional reports should not be shared with the public as that was prejudicial, and that final reports should be released as speedily as possible.
She said her office had not yet decided whether Zuma would receive the full provisional report or snippets. “We have made a decision that no one will get the provisional report… to minimise leaks.”
However, Mantashe had made a series of “incorrect statements” on Tuesday by giving “purported” reasons for why that happened.
“Firstly, I have never said I would release my report by March next year,” Madonsela said. The truth is I have never shared the provisional report with the affected and interested parties. The draft report was sent to the five security clusters.”
Madonsela said it was unclear why Mantashe had linked her to the elections. “Did he lie? I wouldn’t say so… I wouldn’t say it was untruths. I would say the information wasn’t correct. The statement was untrue, but I wouldn’t label them in any way,” she added.
Madonsela said three years after Nzimande accused her of “jumping when the DA asks me to”, she had yet to get the evidence she asked for.
“It’s part of a campaign to deligitimise my office.”
On Wednesday, ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said leaks of incomplete reports from her office happened regularly and prejudiced its work. “These leaks have the effect of not only undermining and prejudicing the integrity and the work of the public protector’s office, but also of harming the image and the standing of those who are being investigated,” he said.
Mthembu recalled three other incomplete reports that had been leaked recently.
The Nkandla report allegedly clearing Jacob Zuma will be released next week Tuesday, it has been announced at a post-Cabinet briefing.
The government will on Tuesday release a previously secret report that apparently found President Jacob Zuma did not benefit from Nkandla upgrades.
On Tuesday, the ANC called for a inter-ministerial task team report on Nkandla to be released in full – but said it could not direct security ministers to declassify it, only ask nicely.
But on Thursday, Cabinet announced it had "directed that the report be released to the public", and said security ministers would hold a briefing on it next Tuesday.
That comes one day after public protector Thuli Madonsela said her report – expected to be damning to Zuma – could be made public before Christmas, but would more likely be read in mid-January, and a little less than a week since the Mail & Guardian published details from a draft version of the report.
From what is available in public the two reports seem to have much the same factual findings, but with very different conclusions.
In November, the inter-ministerial committee released its findings based on a classified report, which was drafted by a task team appointed by the security cluster ministers to investigate the security measures at Zuma's Nkandla home.
A high risk of earthquakes, volatile politics and high levels of rape in the Nkandla region are some of the reasons the state had to upgrade the security at Zuma's private home in Nkandla, according to Parliament's joint standing committee on intelligence.
But there were still no details on what the R206-million state funds were spent on.
The task team's report was tabled in Parliament in June, classified as "top secret" and sent for consideration to the intelligence committee, which meets behind closed doors.
The committee's report appeared in Parliament's daily announcement papers – a day after Parliament went into recess for the Christmas holidays.
The report reads: "It is necessary to appreciate that the geography of the area of Nkandla is fundamental to an understanding of some of the factors that influenced the security upgrades to the residence in question.
"Nkandla is a deep rural area in the province of KwaZulu-Natal with an average elevation of 1 301m above sea level and KwaNxamalala is one of the villages that constitute the Nkandla [Local] Municipality.
"It is at the heart of this remote village that the home of the sitting president of the country is situated.
"This is where the president takes a break from [his] hectic government schedule to go and relax as well as spend quality time with his family, [and] attend to his guests and private engagements. The president also hosts senior state visitors.
"In terms of natural hazards, Nkandla can be susceptible to strong earthquakes [at] an average [of] one earthquake every 50 years, with occurrences at 5 to 6 [on the] Richter scale. While there is a medium to low risk of periods with extreme drought, the risk [of] flooding is also very high," states the report, citing additional information the committee received from the task team.
The report also reveals that the "volatile" political situation in Nkandla is a factor that has to be considered in the security evaluations of the head of state's residence.
The task team found that in addition to the usual factors that affect the security of the president and his family, it had been necessary to examine broader issues such as the political dynamics in the country when assessing and determining the safety and security of a head of state.
"In the case in point, there has been a growing trend of political assassinations generally in the history of South Africa, post-apartheid."
The report said that whereas political assassinations were "bad" in both Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, the latter province was the worst affected.
The report records Zuma's involvement in brokering and securing a deal with the Inkatha Freedom Party to quell the violence in the 1990s.
"Over the years since then, there have been sporadic threats and warnings that there could be a resurgence of political violence."
The report also notes that residents of rural communities are generally considered soft targets of crime and the president's family may be viewed as an even easier target for retribution from those with different political viewpoints.
"Rape is reported as being particularly on the rise, among other crimes. This is but one of the factors that necessarily place an obligation on the government to tighten security even more around the residence of President Zuma," the team said.
Cape Town - Cabinet has ordered that an inter-ministerial task team report into the Nkandla controversy be released to the public.
The decision was announced on Thursday after the African National Congress criticised Public Protector Thuli Madonsela over the timing of her report on construction work at President Jacob Zuma's KwaZulu-Natal homestead.
"Cabinet deliberated on the presentation by the minister of public works on the inter-ministerial task team report on the security upgrades at the president's Nkandla houses," Cabinet said in a statement following its fortnightly meeting on Wednesday.
"Cabinet endorsed the recommendations and directed that the report be released to the public."
It is expected that the report will be released next week, when the security cluster holds a media briefing, but with sections that refer to security arrangements at the President's compound excised.
The report exculpated Zuma, finding no evidence that taxpayer's money had been used to pay for Zuma's private home - as he has insisted in statements to the National Assembly.
But last week, the Mail&Guardian reported that Madonsela had found in her preliminary report that the president had misled Parliament.
The leaking of the report has seen the ANC accuse Madonsela of leaking the report. It urged her to release the final version urgently or be accused of playing politics if it emerged too close to next year's general elections.
The task team referred to is the one established in November last year by the ministers of public works, police, and state security to probe security upgrades to Nkandla. This was prompted by concerns over the cost, more than R206m, of the upgrades.
Its report was referred to Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence for consideration in June. The committee, which meets behind closed doors, last month said the security upgrades at Nkandla were divided into two focus areas.
It said the "apparent misunderstanding that presently exists in respect of the upgrades at the Nkandla property could be attributed to the fact that no clear distinction is appreciated between the state-owned land... and the property of the president".
Cape Town - Religious leaders and the so-called “poo protesters” are to come together to lead a march in the city centre in a few weeks’ time to support informal settlement residents’ demands for better living conditions.
They have likened it to the historic “March for Peace” in September 1989, led, among others, by the then mayor of Cape Town, Gordon Oliver, who signed Wednesday’s commitment to the march.
The plan for a march came out of a meeting in Bishopscourt of the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum, Andile Lili and Loyiso Nkohla from the peoples’ rights movement Ses’khona and representatives of the 86 signatories of the Call for Action.
The 86 signatories, including archbishops Desmond Tutu and Thabo Makgoba, issued a hard-hitting statement last week slamming “a group of political activists” who wanted to “promote a climate of hate” and destabilise the province through violent protests.
They warned that if what they termed a concerted campaign to destabilise the Western Cape was not stopped, it could spread across the country. But they also called on the authorities to make changes in favour of the poor.
They called on all South Africans to refuse to accept threats of ungovernability and rather promote human dignity and equality.
In the statement, they mentioned Lili and Nkohla by name.
On Wednesday, the Archbishop of Cape Town, Makgoba, led the meeting between the three groups.
The commitment to a march was signed by Makgoba, Lili, Nkohla, Oliver, Archbishop Stephen Brislin and Imam Rashied Omar.
Omar is the chairman of the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum.
He said the meeting agreed:
* To work closely in constructive engagement with each other and various levels of government to seek and realise urgent solutions to the dehumanising realities affecting many poor communities on the Cape Flats.
* To hold a “Walk of Witness” in Khayelitsha today to see the conditions people live under and the frustrations they have.
* To undertake a march in Cape Town after Christmas.
“This will take the form of a highly disciplined march led by religious leaders modelled after the September 1989 ‘March for Peace’,” Omar said.
He said they would seek positive engagements with Premier Helen Zille and the City of Cape Town as well as the national government.
The religious leaders hope the agreement between them and protesters will defuse political tensions.
The group of 86 signatories will meet Zille and mayor Patricia de Lille tomorrow.
Omar said they were hoping a broadened summit early next year, which De Lille has already suggested, would “create a climate of hope rather than that of despair”.
Lili, who attended the meeting as Ses’khona chairman, said the religious leaders had been very helpful and had not treated them “like hooligans”.
“We have explained to them why we are fighting and they understand,” Lili said.
He said they shared a “common understanding” about their grievances.
Zille’s spokesman, Zak Mbhele, said the provincial government was working every day to improve the lives of the poorest of the poor.
“We will continue to do so and we trust that the ‘Walk of Witness’ will also result in the churches and other faith institutions contributing to interventions that go beyond symbolism,” he said.
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Thuli Madonsela has expressed disappointment in the media and the ANC over the provisional Nkandla report. And she is about to come in for a lot more.
Perhaps before Christmas, but more realistically around mid-January, her final report on Nkandla will be published, public protector Thuli Madonsela said on Wednesday. She is not expecting it to be a particularly big deal.
"I also want to confirm again to this nation that our reports are simple documents that talk to what happened, what should have happened, is there discrepancy, can we call it maladministration, and if we call it maladministration, how are we going to fix the damage that was done by that maladministration," she said.
Translation: the Nkandla report can find neither for nor against President Jacob Zuma.
She also noted that, as an ombud, her power lies in persuasion. "We don't even have the power to send the sheriff," she said.
Translation: the public protector makes findings, and even recommendations, but other organs and agencies must implement them. So should she find that, say, the president owes the country R20-million, she can say so – but somebody else will have to fetch it from him.
Hoping for the best
Hers gives the appearance of being a cultured naivety. At every turn Madonsela expects the best from people and institutions. She hoped the media "had bought into doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do", she said on her (shattered) hope that her office's leaked provisional report would not be published. Why would an organisation such as the ANC seemingly be attacking her office? Because "it is a fast-paced world. People tend to attack first and find the information afterwards."
Madonsela also reaches for logic to counter political argument and assumes that everyone else will do the same. Reacting to ANC accusations that her office was responsible for leaking recent reports, she pointed out that there would be no benefit for anyone in her office to leak a report, thus there is no motive, and therefore it is implausible that her office is the source of the leaks.
When she was told, shortly after her media briefing, that the ANC issued a statement effectively reiterating the same accusation, she seemed mildly puzzled.
Belief in people's better nature, a reliance on logic, and a limited expectation of the impact of her work are probably all part of a healthy paradigm for the public protector to adopt. But that is a worldview that is going to come under some rather serious pressure once the Nkandla report is released, no matter when that is, and no matter what it says.
The ANC has already proven that it is willing to wildly misinterpret Madonsela's statements, and question her integrity. The nature of the Nkandla debacle means the final report will have to be critical of several ANC leaders (at the very least, Cabinet members), so the party will surely go on the offensive.
The Democratic Alliance, and to a lesser extent other opposition parties, have made it clear that Nkandla is to them election manna from scandal heaven. Madonsela's final report may not have anything as direct as a guilty finding against Zuma, but it will be trumpeted as such.
But it will not only be political parties re-interpreting and mis-interpreting the report. As contentious as some of her previous findings have been, no investigation by Madonsela has ever attracted as much public attention as Nkandla. None has had such a rich and deep history, and so much evidence readily available to anyone who cares to look. The report will be closely scrutinised, analysed, and discussed. Add preconceptions and bias and there will be a dizzying mixture of praise and criticism spread across everything from phone-in radio shows to social media.
Christmas, or more realistically mid-January, is not going to be a happy time for someone who believes that logic can trump politics, that people will do what is right, and that a report is just a report.
Cape Town - Premier Helen Zille and Mayor Patricia de Lille are to meet on Friday some prominent Capetonians, such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, who issued a hard-hitting statement about the recent protests, to address their concerns.
Last week, the group of 86 slammed attempts by “a group of political activists” to “promote a climate of hate” through violent protests.
But they also warned that the delivery of services to the poor in the Western Cape and the rest of the country was inadequate and that it was understandable people were frustrated and angry.
The group said constructive engagement on the best way forward was possible without resorting to violence and fomenting hate and disrespect.
They also made suggestions about what local and provincial government could do.
They suggested that the city and province:
* Improve procurement processes so that service delivery would not be delayed by many years.
* Request more funding from the National Treasury for housing and sanitation.
* Lobby the national Department of Public Works to release land in Youngsfield and Wingfield for housing.
* Redesign municipal and provincial budgets so that sanitation and other services in poor areas be improved and services in affluent suburbs be reduced until poorer areas were better serviced.
The city would not respond yesterday to these suggestions.
However, Solly Malatsi, spokesman for De Lille, said the mayor and premier were scheduled to meet the group this Friday.
Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela’s spokesman, Bruce Oom, said funding for housing was a set amount received from the national department.
In the current financial year, provincial Human Settlements received R1.92 billion for housing.
It had applied for an additional R300 million in 2011/12 to address the informal settlements on the N2, but this had not been approved.
In this financial year, it requested an additional R56m and the indication was that the request would be considered favourably.
In Namibia, it was reported in February this year that a number of presidential mansions would be built across the country for President Hifikepunye Pohamba, ostensibly because local hotels were deemed too dangerous. The project, estimated to cost about N$1.2bn (R1.2bn), constitutes 72% of the total Namibian budget allocation for state housing for the 2012-13 financial year.
While the houses will be owned by the state, they will be exclusively for presidential use, although it is unclear if anyone other than a sitting president will be able to use them. These are apart from the president’s official residence, State House, built by a North Korean firm over 66 months from September 2002 to March 2008 at a cost of N$400m-N$600m.
The old State House — abandoned because, among other things, there wasn’t enough parking — was somewhat ironically located on Robert Mugabe Avenue, Windhoek. The new State House was opened in March 2008, with Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, in attendance.
The Telegraph reported in June that the new string of proposed "mini-presidential houses" would cost nearly the equivalent of Namibia’s entire annual aid from the European Union. About half of Namibia’s 2.1-million population live below the poverty line.
When Namibia isn’t focusing on its own president, it seems to have large amounts of money to spend on accommodation for those from other countries. Among other projects, it is overseeing renovations, estimated to run into the millions, to a mansion for former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, donated to the man as a "gift" for his contribution to the country’s struggle for independence. It has been estimated to cost N$4.2m and the renovations in the area of N$2m.
Across the Zimbabwean border, President Robert Mugabe is known for his expensive taste. His mansion in Helensvale, near Borrowdale, Harare, is estimated to have cost $5m to complete and the 25-bedroom estate has been declared a "shoot to kill" zone. All the interior finishings were imported from China or Europe. Among those who reportedly donated to the project was former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. Said to be a "close friend" of the president, in 2004 he donated timber worth $33,000 for wooden panelling.
But Mugabe, no doubt planning for a retirement that will not be well received in Zimbabwe itself, has made other plans too. And Malaysia would seem as good a place as any to start. It is reported he has a house in Malaysia, which cost about $2.5m.
A diplomat at Zimbabwe’s Malaysian mission said: "Mugabe’s luxurious mansion is located in Bukit Tunku in Kaula Lumpur, that is what we all know but none of us has been invited there." The official added: "The mansion we have established was bought for 12-million Malaysian Ringgit. Bukit Tunku is one of the most expensive elite residential areas here. Most of the home owners are senior ministers, businessmen and royalties."
Swaziland’s King Mswati III, obviously, has a palace; actually, he has several. Despite the country itself being effectively bankrupt, King Mswati is worth an estimated $200m and, in January 2004, the country spent some $15m on renovations to the palaces, although that figure was later revised to about $4m. Information on Swaziland is sketchy at best but, in his book Tyrants: The World’s 20 Worst Living Dictators, David Wallechinsky writes that two-thirds of the population in Swaziland lives below the poverty line "while the king is said to possess a Rolls-Royce, 13 palaces and 14 wives".
In Botswana, it was reported in October this year that President Ian Khama intended to move out of the official state residence and to his ancestral home of Mosu when he retired. To this end, an airstrip has reportedly been built. The Botswana Guardian reported in October that, "two years before President Ian Khama’s inauguration, a team of officials including Botswana Defence Force (BDF) officers was dispatched to Mosu to begin construction of Khama’s private holiday compound complete with an airfield at taxpayers’ expense".
The story continues: "Led by the BDF and some officials from buildings department, the team put together a multimillion Pula palace in Khama’s private land and an airstrip estimated at around P60-million ($7.2m)." The project is reportedly wrapped in secrecy.
The Mail & Guardian has written that "the tentacles of Mozambican President Armando Emilio Guebuza’s huge family business empire make Zuma Incorporated look like a spaza-shop operation".
Guebuza’s personal particulars are difficult to determine as, again, information is sketchy, but he is more than able to fend for himself, as opposed to draining the public purse.
He has a luxury holiday home at La Perla, a holiday resort at Lake Bilene near Xai-Xai, where, in 2011, a number of residents (including 13 South Africans) were evicted, reportedly because the area was being considered as a potential home for Mugabe — although the Mozambican government said it was because those houses already built were illegal.
So Zuma is in good company indeed. Much like his contemporaries across southern Africa, where kings and dictators live side by side, he believes the state must provide generously when it comes to his accommodation. And apart from the exorbitant costs, secrecy, not transparency, seems to be the one common factor here.
But then "the people" are never really a good measure for these things. Whether democratically elected, undemocratically entrenched or ordained to rule by God himself, southern Africa’s rulers live an opulent lifestyle indeed. And while "the people" might fund most of it, it is a world apart from the widespread poverty and destitution that define their daily lives.
PUBLIC Protector Thuli Madonsela is certain the integrity of the final report into security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence has not been compromised despite the "poisoned environment" surrounding it.
Ms Madonsela hit back on Wednesday after the African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday came out fighting, urging her to release her report with "extreme urgency" or risk being accused of playing politics.
Her office was also accused of leaking the report to the Mail & Guardian, which published details of its contents last week.
Ms Madonsela has been hauled to court by the government and received the brunt of the anger of the ANC’s allies over her handling of the matter.
Responding to questions on whether the report would have any integrity after the controversy surrounding it, she said that she thought so. Its integrity depended on whether the analysis of the legal and regulatory framework contained in it was sound.
It also rested on whether any other public protector, beside herself, would come to the same conclusion, whatever that might be. "I don’t see any integrity being compromised," Ms Madonsela said.
"It is a factual inquiry."
But she admitted the "poisoned environment" was problematic. "There’s hard feelings," Ms Madonsela said.
While she did not feel "under attack", she was aware there was "heightened opportunity for misunderstanding" over the report. She moved to assure the public that she had no role in politics, nor had any interest in it.
"The public protector has no role in politics and no place to advise or influence people of South Africa to choose the party they want to govern them," Ms Madonsela told a media briefing in Pretoria.
"I have no interest in interfering. I assure the people of South Africa that I have never interfered with their right to choose (who governs) them."
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe had expressed concern on Tuesday that the Nkandla matter was "festering" in the public domain, which affected the image of the president and the party.
Ms Madonsela said she agreed with Mr Mantashe that she had no business dabbling in politics. But she believed Mr Mantashe was probably not briefed properly, because his statement that she violated the rules was untrue.
Ms Madonsela said she had never intended that the report would be released in March, as Mr Mantashe had suggested that she would. She was sticking to the timelines she had set out for the investigation.
On Tuesday evening she had received names of official security experts from the Police Ministry, contacted them and hoped to meet them tomorrow," Ms Madonsela said.
She expects the final report to be concluded by the second week of next month.
Ms Madonsela denied that the leak of the report emanated from her office. "I don’t know who leaked the report," she said.
"From where I sit, I have no reason to suspect that the leak was from my office."
The report had been with her office since March this year and had not leaked in all that time. An electronic copy of the report, with passwords, was given to the security cluster ministers.
Ms Madonsela said ministers themselves had admitted to giving the report to officials. An article in Independent Newspapers publications, published ahead of the Mail & Guardian piece, also on the Nkandla report, quoted two senior government sources as the root of its information.
"If the Independent Newspapers were telling the truth ... than that’s the evidence you need ... that the leak came from the security cluster," Ms Madonsela said.
The ANC "reminded" the public in a statement on Wednesday that "there was no involvement in anyway whatsoever of the government security and justice cluster in these reports", the party said.
"Our view and our take is that the final responsibility rests with her office on any leakage of incomplete investigations."
Ms Madonsela hoped to find common ground with the ANC and would meet the party to do so. The ANC yesterday welcomed her intention to meet the party and would await her invite.
Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said yesterday she would "absolutely" go ahead with the move to impeach Mr Zuma. The public protector’s report on the Nkandla upgrades provided prima facie grounds for doing so.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
A 32km-long stretch of single-lane road linking President Jacob Zuma’s hometown of Nkandla and the neighbouring town of Kranskop cost taxpayers a whopping R290 million.
Transport Minister Dipuo Peters revealed this on Tuesday in a written reply to a parliamentary question from the IFP.
She said the P5 road, which passes through Zuma’s private home, was built by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government.
“The national Department of Transport did not spend any funds for the construction of this road. The provincial Department of Transport spent about R290m for the construction of the specified (Nkandla to Kranskop) road,” Peters said.
This comes as concerns mount over the delays in the implementation of the much-hyped Moloto Rail Corridor, following a bus accident in Kwaggafontein that left 30 people dead last month.
The project, announced by Zuma three years ago, is to link Pretoria, Mpumalanga and Sekhukhune in Limpopo.
The Star’s sister newspaper, The Mercury, reported last year that Nkandla had substantially benefited from R582m in taxpayers’ money for the construction of two tarred roads.
The paper reported that the sprawling village of KwaNxamalala had been given two new road networks. The other road - a 53km stretch linking Nkandla to Eshowe - cost R292m to build.
The network forms parts of a project dubbed the Tale of Four Cities as it also links Ulundi, Empangeni/Richards Bay, Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
The official launch ceremony was held just a stone’s throw from Zuma’s private residence in October last year.
KwaZulu-Natal Transport MEC Willies Mchunu had also opened two pedestrian bridges across the iNsuze and Mposa rivers, linking other villages to schools which are in the greater KwaMxamalala area, at a cost of R4.5m.
The unveiling ceremony was held amid a public outcry over the government’s R206m upgrade at Zuma’s private home.
At the time of the launch, DA MPL and the party’s transport spokesman, Radley Keys, had questioned why Nkandla seemed to be getting a lot of preferential attention.
“There are vast areas of the country that do not even have gravel roads. I said clearly there is an agenda here and it could be that it is because Nkandla is home to the president,” Keys said.
The provincial government has repeatedly denied that the roads construction had anything to do with the security upgrade at Nkandla, which was being undertaken by the national Department of Public Works.
- The Star
ANC leaders have shown how they intend to assign the Nkandla report debacle to the dustheap of history - in just two easy steps.
The opening salvo of the ANC's final push on the Nkandla controversy made for a bizarre media briefing on Tuesday, featuring notable moments such as top party leaders Gwede Mantashe and Jessie Duarte wildly misrepresenting a statement by public protector Thuli Madonsela.
But the totality of the party's plays shows that it is already gearing up to move past Nkandla – and that it intends to emerge, if not entirely victorious and vindicated, then at least as united as it has ever been, and roughly as trusted to govern as it has been in recent years.
It is a strategy remarkable for both its elegant simplicity and its flexibility.
Step one was immediately obvious: denigrate Madonsela in such a way as to allow those who wish to believe that her work on not only Nkandla, but the excesses and questionable decisions by several government ministers, is driven by an anti-ANC agenda.
Madonsela tends to "hype the sentiment" around reports on the upper echelons of government, ANC secretary general Mantashe said, in a phrase used several times. Madonsela's office tends to not release full versions of investigative reports, ANC spokesperson Duarte said, allowing select snippets to hold sway. And then there was the very nearly direct accusation that Madonsela was personally responsible for leaking details of the Nkandla report, which in turn would make her guilty of crimes such as "seeking to undermine the confidence of the public" in her processes (why she would do so was not made clear), and of "deliberate and misleading casting of aspersions" on the subjects of investigations.
That last bit, at least, had motive attached: the ANC is obliquely accusing Madonsela of trying to affect the outcome of general elections in 2014.
The holes in the various arguments are clear, but they culminate into something that would be familiar to ANC supporters. The party, mostly through lesser structures rather than by way of top leaders, has often darkly hinted at counter-revolutionary forces at work in South Africa, shadowy operators who seek to topple the government or mislead voters, be they remnants of apartheid, newer conspiracies of the power-hungry, or alliances of foreign powers. Lumping Madonsela with such trickster figures will find fertile ground in some quarters, and give more people pause for thought.
The second part of the strategy was more subtle and less fraught: give the Madonsela report on Nkandla, which by most indications will be punishingly harsh on Jacob Zuma, equal standing with an earlier report by a team convened by the ministers of state security, police and public works.
That report cleared Zuma of wrongdoing, or so says Parliament's joint standing committee on intelligence, which in mid-November delivered a public summary of the report, which is classified.
"We call for the full report, not only the findings, of the inter-ministerial task team, to be released to the public," Mantashe told the assembled media.
The ANC knows full well that is highly improbable. Ministers tasked with security have long fought the release of any detail on the measures implemented at Nkandla, and have argued it would be illegal for them to do so. It is also probable that the full report will contain information embarrassing to Zuma when considered in conjunction with other mounting evidence on what transpired around Nkandla over the past four years.
But ANC leaders also know that the only public summary of the report is kind to Zuma, and that it deals with exactly the kind of security matters the party would like to see become the centre of extensive discussions.
"The ANC instructs government to make available to the public all the experts who decided and designed all elements of the security features at Nkandla," party leaders said in the written version of Tuesday's statement. "These experts must explain their decisions and designs in the public domain. This must be done to ensure that all and any queries that the public may have with regard to these particular issues are tabled and responded to exhaustively."
Such an exhaustive discussion of the broad strokes of security decisions would, in all likelihood, be rather uncomfortable for the military and police. That is clear from the script, which comes in the form of the committee's report: Nkandla was secured against earthquakes and intruders lurking behind henhouses, intruders who may have rape on their minds. There would be renewed howls of outrage and gales of laughter – but little of it at the expense of Zuma.
Using the internal government report as the basis for discussion on Nkandla is safe; a full third of the terms of reference for that investigation deals with the declaration of Zuma's home as a national key point, the rest deal with requirements, budgets, and supply-chain management. Improper benefit to the president does not feature.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
The ANC's plan to contain the damage the Nkandla saga may do to it during the 2014 elections might not be an effective one.
The ANC still seems hell-bent on trying to contain the damage the Nkandla controversy may do to it during the 2014 elections – even though that strategy has not exactly paid off to date.
Questions around the amount government is spending on President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead has been a growing headache for the ANC since the Mail & Guardian first reported in 2009 that extensive construction was underway at the compound.
In 2014, spending on Nkandla will be a major election issue; various opposition parties have said in as many words that they will use it to argue that Zuma is an unfit leader, that the ANC has created a snowballing system of patronage, and that change is sorely needed.
The issue is either being linked to or is drowning out crime, the traditional centrepiece of opposition campaigns, service delivery, the main message the ANC is leaning towards, and the economics of race, which newcomers the Economic Freedom Fighters are trying to put front and centre.
Yet on the weekend, the ANC continued its attempts to limit coverage and discussion of Nkandla rather than confronting it, while Zuma himself spent three full news cycles – which were packed with speculation on impeachment – speaking about struggle history, and appointing judges and a new auditor general, but breathing not a word about his home.
ANC insiders said the party was caught by surprise when the M&G on Friday published details of the public protector's draft report on Nkandla, which in its current form finds that the government built houses for Zuma family members, contrary to Zuma's claims that his family funded their own residences. But they insisted that core ANC voters saw such reports as unwarranted, personal attacks on Zuma, and would not sway them come general elections.
Speculation was premature
"We all know you guys are doing the work of the [Democratic Alliance] when you say these things," one party leader joked.
Officially, the ANC encouraged South Africans not to discuss the published details of the public protector's report, saying there had been no formal finding yet and that speculation was premature.
That seemed to have almost as much effect as a prior attempt by ministers in the security cluster to "caution" the media and public that publishing photographs of the homestead would be illegal, in what smacked of an effort to reduce the number of such photographs voters would see before the elections. After many media outlets and a large section of the online population effectively rebelled against that attempt, the ministers sought to soften their position through "clarification".
Another approach to Nkandla containment seemed equally doomed to failure. Several mid-rank ANC leaders said it was important to point out that although security spending on the homes of PW Botha and FW de Klerk had been in the range of hundreds of thousands of rands, building costs and inflation made that roughly equivalent to the R215-million spent on Zuma’s homestead more recently.
Indeed, over the weekend comments in various online forums, including the comment sections of the M&G, claimed that inflation-corrected security spending for De Klerk and Botha's homes was in excess of R300-million each, or that hundreds of millions had been spent securing the homes of Nelson Mandela.
But far from being accepted at face value, those attempts at spin were almost universally met with either scorn, outrage, or calculations that showed just how very far off the mark such claims were.
A third attempt at containing fallout was characterised by absence rather than action; security ministers (who during the fight to delay the public protector's report were energetically punting the results of an internal probe they said had found no personal culpability on Zuma's part) steered well clear of the action. The ANC, meanwhile, spoke by way of statements and spokespeople, with off-the-record comments providing far more details than the few interviews with top party leaders.
The Star newspaper on Monday said it stood by the contents of a story it published about the future of the houses occupied by President Jacob's Zuma's support staff at Nkandla.
Earlier, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi and Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti issued a joint statement in which they refuted the article, which was also published in the Pretoria News.
The article stated that Nxesi and Nkwinti had contradicted each other in terms of what would happen to some of the houses on Zuma's multi-million rand homestead in KwaZulu-Natal - as some of it was built on state-owned land managed by the Ingonyama Trust Board.
The article quoted Vuyo Bavuma, speaking on behalf of Nxesi, saying that the support staff houses built on the state-owned land would be sold once Zuma's five-year term was over.
Nxesi, however, said Bavuma was not his spokesperson.
The Star's editor Makhudu Sefara said: "It’s a fact that we did speak to Bavuma, the public works’ stakeholder communications specialist, whom we erroneously referred to as the spokesperson.
"We specifically asked him to confirm a statement published in the Sowetan, in which Nxesi was quoted as saying that some houses built by the government in Nkandla would be sold after President Jacob Zuma’s term of office expired, because they were part security upgrades," Sefara said in a statement.
He said Bavuma confirmed the quote was a true reflection of what Nxesi had said, and therefore The Star used it in their publication.
"Bavuma ought to have indicated to us that he was not permitted to speak on behalf of either the department or minister when an enquiry was made with him," he said.
The Star reported that Nkwinti apparently contradicted Nxesi and said houses on Ingonyama Trust Board land could not be sold as the trust only leased land.
Monday, December 2, 2013
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti has contradicted his cabinet colleague, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, who claimed some of the Nkandla houses that didn’t belong to President Jacob Zuma would be sold when his term ended.
But Nkwinti contradicted Nxesi in an unrelated response, saying houses on Ingonyama Trust Board land could not be sold off as the trust only leased land.
The Nkandla homestead is made up of “state-owned land” (Ingonyama Trust Board land) which covers 5.1598 hectares and the property of the president which covers 3.8324ha.
Nxesi’s spokesman Vuyo Bavuma confirmed that the minister made the remarks at one of his speaking engagements last week, before asking for questions to be sent to him via e-mail. One of the questions was whether the houses Nxesi was referring to were an exception to the rule and could be sold on the open market. He failed to respond by on Sunday.
In a written parliamentary response, Nkwinti said it was not “common practice” for the Ingonyama Trust Board to dispose of land but rather to let the land for various purposes to interested parties.
“This is subject to an agreement reached between the Ingonyama Trust Board and the Traditional Councils,” said Nkwinti.
Nkwinti was responding to a parliamentary question from DA MP John Steenhuisen who asked what process was followed when land under the Ingonyama Trust Board and traditional leadership was sold or let to developers and others, and to whom the proceeds of these transactions went.
“The rental rates vary from property to property. They depend on the locality of the property, its size and on its intended use. The rentals are payable to the Ingonyama Trust Board’s bank accounts and are disbursed as described above,” said Nkwinti.
He also revealed that Ingonyama had signed 2 149 leases since 2008 which would include Zuma’s R800-a-month lease.
“The proceeds of these transactions are deposited into the bank accounts of the Ingonyama Trust Board and distributed in terms of the board’s disbursement policy.”
Nkwinti said the beneficiaries were identified in terms of the land on which they resided and leases were signed on land which fell under the jurisdiction of certain traditional councils.
- The Star