/ 19 December 2013

ANC: Don’t compare Zuma’s Nkandla upgrades to Mandela, Mbeki

The ANC has welcomed the release of government's task team report on spending on security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma's private residence in Nkandla.

The report, released by Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe, absolved Zuma of all personal responsibility. It also justified several construction and improvement projects carried out on the property, including a chicken run, cattle entrance and pool, as essential to maintaining security.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe took exception to the Mail & Guardian pointing out that security spend on previous president's private residences were more than double the cost of upgrading Zuma's residence.

Below are the figures obtained from a leaked version of the public protector's report into the upgrades at Zuma's house in Nkandla, adjusted for inflation according to the report:

He said the figures did not take into account the "time value of money" and that the party had already made an admission about the inflation of prices by service providers working on the upgrade.

Mantashe had earlier called for the money to be recouped and the providers to be blacklisted in response to the task team finding that possible over-pricing and collusion had occurred in the procurement of goods and services in the upgrade.

'Different needs'
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu told the M&G the numbers did not consider the fact that former president Thabo Mbeki's private house was built in an urban setting, and former president Nelson Mandela's private residence, though also in a rural setting, had different needs. He referred the press to detailed answers from the government's security cluster responsible for the upgrade.

Mantashe, however, would not be drawn on the alleged involvement of Zuma's personal architect in the project, saying only that this was up to the relevant authorities to ascertain. 

The M&G published details of a leaked version of the public protector's report in November. In the provisional report public protector Thuli Madonsela placed much blame for the eightfold cost escalation to R215-million on the architect, Minenhle Makhanya, who precipitated "uncontrolled creep" of the scope of the upgrade.

Throughout the briefing, Mantashe referred to the amount spent by the state on the upgrade as R71-million, and asked media to do the same.

But according to the report delivered by the government task team on Monday morning, though this was the cost of the actual "security installation", a further R135-million was spent to support the security upgrade for South African Police Service and defence personnel, including water, power and accommodation. This brings the amount spent by the state on the upgrade as a whole to R206-million, according the government.

Delayed report
Mantashe would also not be drawn on the delay in releasing the cluster's report after a long-running battle to declassify and release the findings. Opposition leader in Parliament Lindiwe Mazibuko said earlier on Thursday that government only seemed to release the report in response to their battle over Madonsela's own report.

But Mantashe said the question was an unfair one to the ANC as "a few weeks ago we were here, and called for the report to be released," he said, adding the party put pressure on government to declassify and release the report.

He reiterated his party's call for the report to be released as soon as possible.

"We don't think this report is the final one and therefore we can go and relax," he told journalists. "We still want the report of the public protector."

Public protector report
The calls for Madonsela's report to be released began soon after the M&G published the leaked provisional report, which itself followed a protracted battle between the security cluster ministers and the public protector, which saw government go to court in an attempt to interdict the report. The final version is now expected in January.

Mantashe also said at the briefing that the facilities built for the upgrade, such as the clinic, should be made available to the public.

"For us, it will not make sense to have a clinic that is only for the service of the homestead," he said. "It will make sense if it is creating a facility for the community in that area."

He added that the same should apply for all facilities created around the homestead. "There should be a discussion on how it will add to the development of the area."