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Share Nkandla report or drop case against architect, says lawyer

Declassify Nkandla documents and make the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU’s) report on Nkandla public or strike the civil suit against the Nkandla architect off the roll.

This was the firm sentiment of attorney Barnabus Xulu on behalf of President Jacob Zuma’s private architect, Minenhle Makhanya, ahead of the SIU’s response to his request for documents, which is expected to be filed on Tuesday.

Xulu indicated on Monday that he would ask the Pietermaritzburg high court to strike the matter off the roll if the SIU fails to provide him with even one of  the 40 documents he asked for.

“They made their bed, now they must lie in it,” he said.

Xulu’s somewhat broad request comes in the wake of the  SIU filing a R155-million claim against Makhanya for his role in government’s overspending at Zuma’s private Nkandla residence. Makhanya was improperly appointed project manager of the controversial security upgrades to Zuma’s home.

The wide array of documents requested include some that are already in the public domain, as well as classified information and documents that could only be in Zuma’s possession.

“Noncompliance in any form means we will make an application to strike off the case,” said Xulu.

Details on all prestige projects wanted
The SIU’s attorney, Udesh Ramesar, said he would respond to Makhanya’s request in full on Tuesday. However, he would not be drawn into discussing a possible application to strike the matter off the roll.

Xulu admitted that some of the documents he requested may be classified, but said that, without them, his client would be prejudiced.

Xulu has requested for – among other things – all bills, material specifications, and sizes approved of in the period between 2007 and 2012 for prestige projects, which included the guard houses, control rooms, on-site clinics, staff houses, crew pavilions, fences, specialised glass and glazing for other presidential residences and properties.

These include Dube House in Durban, Genadendal in Cape Town, and Mahlamba Ndlopfu and the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

“Those who classified the documents should declassify them, we need everything,” said Xulu.

Several of the 40 documents he requested are already in the public domain through a Promotion to Access of Information Act application by the Amabhungane investigative team of the Mail & Guardian.

These documents alone are estimated to comprise about 12 000 pages.

Making the report public
Xulu further requested the SIU’s final report on Zuma’s home, dated August 2014.

If the report is given to them – however unlikely that may be – it will then form part of court records, which are public. The SIU Act does not empower the unit to release the report or make its contents public. It is up to Zuma whether or not he wants to make the report public.

But Xulu said that only with the full report would he understand the SIU’s case against his client.

“We need to know how they made up their case,” he said.

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