President Jacob Zuma’s personal architect, Minenhle Makhanya, filed a notice to defend the R155-million civil claim, which was instituted against him last week by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
Makhanya’s notice of appearance to defend was filed in the high court in Pietermaritzburg on Monday afternoon. Makhanya now has 20 days to file his plea, which will set out his defence as to why he should not be held liable. The Mail & Guardian reported last week that as Zuma’s private architect, Makhanya could disclose exactly what the president knew about the “security upgrade” that transformed the president’s modest Nkandla compound into a rural palace.
The SIU slapped the R155-million noose around Makhanya’s neck last Monday. Makhanya has maintained a stony public silence throughout the Nkandla scandal, but his pleadings will be the first time that he will give his side of the story.
The SIU has attempted to put Makhanya in what amounts to a life-long financial vice, raising the stakes for the president. Experts in the field of recovering state money said Makhanya would almost certainly have to provide evidence under oath to dispute the SIU claim and would only be able to mount an effective defence by giving details about how and why the extra R155-million came to be spent on Nkandla.
Makhanya’s Cape Town-based attorney Barnabas Xulu is in KwaZulu-Natal this week where he is holding consultations with his client.