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Sam Sole, Stefaans Brummer07 Dec 2012 00:00
Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead was born in arms-deal sin.
The ongoing saga of the construction, financing and outfitting of the president’s rural seat captures the mixture of chaos, influence and excess that seems to characterise Zuma’s relationship with money—and with his many benefactors.
And, of course, the story of Nkandla also weaves in the thick strand of graft introduced by the notorious “encrypted fax”, which alleged that Zuma and Schabir Shaik had concluded a secret bribe agreement with French defence company Thomson-CSF.
The history of the Nkandla development set out in the report by audit firm KPMG prepared for Zuma’s trial is striking for how many people were involved in paying for it before the president spent a cent.
It was Zuma’s close friend, Mpumulanga businessperson Nora Fakude-Nkuna, who first approached architects on his behalf in February 2000 and it was her company, Bohlabela Wheels, that paid the R34 200 bill.
Indeed, it is a mystery how Zuma expected to be able to pay for the project at all, because his monthly living expenses were already more than double his monthly income—unless, of course, he was expecting a new cash injection.
That is the view KPMG takes of the meeting between Zuma, Shaik and Thomson’s South African boss, Alain Thetard, which took place on about March 10 2000 in Durban.
The meeting was captured in Thetard’s March 17 2000 encrypted fax to his bosses in Paris setting out what transpired.
Thetard wrote that he had asked Shaik to obtain a “clear confirmation” from Zuma, or “at least an encoded declaration” to “validate” a request made by Shaik at the end of September 1999.
Thetard indicated that he had defined a code and Zuma had given the coded confirmation.
Thetard reminded his bosses of the two main objectives of the “effort” they were being asked to make: “Thomson-CSF’s protection during the current [arms deal] investigation” and “JZ’s permanent support for future projects”. An “effort” of R500 000 a year was indicated.
Shaik told his trial this meeting was about a donation to Zuma’s charitable education trust, an explanation rejected by the court. In February 2003, Zuma denied to Parliament such a meeting had taken place.
In any event, Zuma’s builder, Eric Malengret, started on the Nkandla project in about July 2000. The agreed price was R1 340 000.
Events proceeded as follows:
The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.
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