The acting director general of public works Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie says she should go to jail if she disclosed figures for security work at President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla compound – which is exactly what she did.
His department has launched an internal investigation to identify the culprits who leaked unreliable information to the media, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said on Friday. Any official who makes such information public will be jailed, acting director general Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie added.
Documents provided to Parliament on May 15 2012, during a budget briefing that minutes show Fatyela-Lindie herself presented, did exactly that.
The document remains freely available for download from the website of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, and breaks down spending of close to R240-million for "installation of security measures and related" in the Eshowe and Inkandla area. That spending is ascribed to the department's prestige portfolio, which Nxesi on Friday confirmed was reserved for spending on VIP buildings, including the president's homestead.
If she made such a disclosure, Fatyela-Lindie said, she'll be taken to jail, a statement she later confirmed, although she failed to answer a question on whether she would cooperate with her own prosecution. But, she said, she had checked with her parliamentary office, and there had been no such disclosure.
Provisions for a jail sentence, Nxesi and Fatyela-Lindie said, are contained in legislation related to national defence and national key points, which they say prohibit them from disclosing any financial details around security measures for the presidential homestead.
Nxesi said he did not know when the Nkandla homestead had been declared a national key point, but that he was sure it had been done, as is standard procedure for the residence of any sitting or former president.
"The Defence Act also prohibits disclosure of information relating to places that have been declared as national key points," the minister said. "And I want to repeat, the president's house like other president's house is a national key point."
Nxesi and his department have this week consistently cited that classification as the reason why questions on the spending at Nkandla could not be answered, and have denied an official request from the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism on the same grounds.
The minister initially said the spending had been in line with the guidelines of the ministerial handbook, which caps security expenditure at private residences at R100 000, but on Friday said other rules and regulations had to be taken into consideration. And her department did not decide on the level of spending required to protect a president, Fatyela-Lindie added, but merely did what it was told to by police and the defence force.
Fatyela-Lindie also said that the auditor general had oversight of classified spending by her department – but that those findings themselves remain classified.
Questioning the need for spending hundreds of millions of rands in Nkandla, Nxesi said, shows insensitivity to the cultural diversity of South Africa. Similarly, he said, asking how many days of the last year Zuma has spent at the compound was unfair, and that he didn't know.
He failed to answer questions on the number of foreign dignitaries who have been hosted at the compound, which is part of the justification he had earlier used for the expenditure. Asked whether the presidential guest house in Pretoria is no longer considered sufficient to host such guests, he said only that it remains operational.
In a statement that made no reference to numbers whatsoever, outside of the two helicopters Zuma uses and the need for 24/7/365 security services, Nxesi said "most of the state [security] requirements have been met". The security upgrade needed at the compound, he said, had happened to coincide with major upgrades paid for by Zuma himself.
The full spreadsheet can be viewed here on page two. The spending on Nkandla starts at line 648.