The government has refused to release any information relating to developmental projects in the area near President Jacob Zuma's homestead in Nkandla.
The clampdown comes three weeks after the Mail & Guardian revealed details of how the government was planning to spend more than R1-billion of taxpayers' money to build the first new town in a democratic South Africa – 3.2km from Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.
Initial estimates are that the government will have to direct more than R1-billion into the development, which will require a further R1-billion from the private sector to make the project viable. It is the brainchild of Masibambisane, a rural development organisation Zuma chairs. Opposition parties have described it as a hand-out scheme for the president to curry favour.
The department of rural development and land reform has taken up the project with apparent enthusiasm and has already donated more than R800-million towards Masibambisane-related projects.
On Thursday, government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi issued a statement that said any information relating to Nkandla developmental projects would be contained in the annual reports that would be submitted to Parliament in September.
"Some members of the media have been asking departments to provide information concerning their involvement or financial contribution to the Nkandla Development Project. The 2011-12 financial year has been completed and departments are in the process of finalising their annual reports. Information concerning any project undertaken by departments and budget expenditure will be outlined in these reports.
"The reports will be presented to Parliament towards the end of September and all interested parties, including members of the media, are encouraged to monitor the presentations and interact with information contained in the reports accordingly," said Manyi.
His statement on Thursday came two days after acting public works director general Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie refused to answer questions about the procurement processes relating to the awarding of a tender to Bonelena Construction and Trading for the building of a new mansion for Zuma in Nkandla, which is expected to cost between R65-million and R100-million.
Among the M&G's questions were the value of the Bonelena tender and claims that the department of public works failed to pay the company. Bonelena claimed it was not paid after construction workers who demolished a crèche and built a private clinic for Zuma and his family complained that they had not received their wages. The Sunday Times reported that promises to rebuild the Siphumelele Crèche – in which at least 25 children aged between three and five were enrolled, have come to naught two years after it was flattened to make way for the clinic. The National Lottery Board initially funded the R120 000 crèche in 1996.
In her response, Fatyela-Lindie said: "Nkandla presidential residence, like all other presidential residences in South Africa, is a national key point. As such, information related to the national key point is protected in terms of the National Key Point Act 102 of 1980.
"The handling of information for this residence is protected in line with the provisions of the Protection of Information Act no 84 of 1982, the minimum information security standards and other relevant security prescripts of the State Security Agency. The department will not be in a position to answer to your questions in compliance with the prescripts mentioned above," said Fatyela-Lindie.