Zuma might still be liable for Nkandla's security costs

President Jacob Zuma. (AFP)

President Jacob Zuma. (AFP)

President Jacob Zuma might be financially responsible in his personal capacity for over R200-million spent on beefing up security at his Nkandla homestead.

According to current legislation governing the protection of national key points, the National Key Points Act of 1980 dictates that the owner of a property designated for state protection is personally liable for the costs of security measures demanded by the state.

"On receipt of a notice, the owner of the national key point concerned shall after consultation with the minister at his own expense take steps to the satisfaction of the minister in respect of the security of the said key point," section 3.1 of the Act reads.

Moreover if the owner of a national key point does not undertake the stipulated upgrades they could face a fine of up to R20 000 and/or a prison sentence of up to five years, the Act states.

The piece of legislation has been used in part to defend state spending at the president's rural residence and also utilised to defend the secrecy maintained by the government in relation to the work carried out.

​Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said on Sunday a ministerial investigation found no evidence of state funds being used to upgrade President Jacob Zuma's private rural residence in Nkandla.

But Nxesi did confirm to journalists during a briefing on the ministerial inquiry into the matter that over R200-million of department money was spent on upgrading security at the residence after it was declared a national key point in April 2010. He claimed the costs incurred were commensurate with securing the premises as a national key point.

Doing the math
According to Nxesi, R71-million was spent directly on security features such as bulletproof windows, security fencing, evacuation mechanisms and firefighting equipment. A further R135-million was spent on operational costs incurred by state departments involved in the upgrade.

Nxesi added that the report remained secret and would not be released lest security details of the Nkandla homestead become public.

The renovations at the president's rural residence have been a bone of contention since 2012, when it was reported over R250-million of public funds would be used for renovations to the homestead.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, Parliament's standing committee on public accounts and auditor general Terence Nombembe are also investigating the matter in addition to the ministerial inquiry Nxesi instituted.

Legislation defending the move
Besides the contentious legislation that was used to defend the move, the costs seem to have flouted other suggested norms pertaining to the state funding of security measures for politicians.

The limit allowed in the controversial ministerial handbook for security upgrades at the private residences of executive members of Cabinet is a meagre R100 000.

The state expenditure at the president's rural homestead is thus two thousand times the proposed limit prescribed in the handbook. But the state might find a defence for their expenditure in certain parts of the Act.

Section 3B of the Act declares that state money can be provided to "defray expenditure in connection with the safeguarding of key points".

According to the Act this might come in the form of a loan to the owner of the designated national key point.

'A moot point'
"This is now a moot point though," constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos told the Mail & Guardian on Monday.

"The department of public works is no longer using this as their sole method of defending the Nkandla upgrades, so it would be difficult to see this being employed as a sole method of defence."

Despite several attempts to gain clarity from the department of public works on their use of the Act as a defence for the state expenditure at the president's rural homestead, the department did not respond to calls for comment.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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