MPs want 'real culprits' in Nkandla project

Two ministers, Thulas Nxesi and Nathi Nhleko, will face Parliament on Wednesday to answer for the money spent on Nkandla. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Two ministers, Thulas Nxesi and Nathi Nhleko, will face Parliament on Wednesday to answer for the money spent on Nkandla. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

While the price of the actual upgrades has fluctuated between R246-million and R206-million in investigations and reports compiled on Nkandla, MPs have found that whatever the cost there was no value for money on the work.

They visited KwaZulu-Natal last week for an inspection of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead where, instead of a luxurious and palatial home, they found incomplete work, shoddy workmanship and 21 tiny unused homes for South African Defence Force members with mattresses on the floor – said to have cost R6-million each.

Price inflation, poor workmanship and gross mismanagement have been blamed for the millions spent on Nkandla, with ad hoc committee chairperson Cedric Frolick last week saying there was a consensus among political parties that the two ministers should clarify some issues. 

“Members want to know who was responsible for this gross inflation of prices at the Nkandla project so that those found liable should reimburse the state,” he said last week.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s report cleared Zuma and his government of any wrongdoing and found that the upgrades called into question by public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report were necessary and security related. More than R50-million was spent on security at Nkandla.

Nhleko found that the swimming pool, also known as the fire pool, was the best water source available at Nkandla to replenish fire engines while the kraal had significant spiritual and cultural value that went beyond the storage of animals.

Now the committee is in search of the “real culprits”, with members calling for action against “contractors and any official of the department of public works ... responsible for price inflations”.

Someone must take responsibility
While the Economic Freedom Fighters and Congress of the People MPs have boycotted the whole ad hoc committee process, Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh said they wanted and needed answers.

“From the police minister we want to know who was responsible for giving the directive that those 21 units be built and from the public works minister [Thulas Nxesi], who were the officials responsible for overseeing and managing the entire project, because there is gross mismanagement of the project, in terms of there being no value for money.
We also want to know from the minister of police, after having gone to the site, on what basis can he describe the pool as being a firefighting security measure, when in a top secret report which was done before the project was started on the ground, there was mention of a building of a reservoir, to add to the firefighting capacity and it was built,” said Singh on Tuesday.

He said that in the entire project there was gross mismanagement and theft and someone had to be held accountable.

“This time it’s not a matter of naming the person, but making them pay or face criminal consequences.”

Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenhuisen said they believed the public protector and the Special Investigating Unit also needed to appear before the committee. He said it was extreme cowardice on Parliament’s side not to call on Thuli Madonsela, who was last week accused by an ANC MP of misleading the nation. He said they were looking forward to interrogating Nxesi.

“[We need] to get to the bottom of how we paid such large amounts of money for substandard work and poor construction. He has to answer for that as his department was the project manager for this,” said Steenhuisen. 

Freedom Front Plus MP Corne Mulder said they wanted someone to be held accountable, though they did not believe this committee would do so. On Tuesday, he said they hoped to get some clear answers from the two ministers and clarity on a number of issues on the upgrades.

“My concern is that the current minister of public works will shrug his shoulders and say all these things happened before he was on the job and as far as I am concerned we need to get the incumbents of the time to come to Parliament and give some answers.  

“I’m not convinced that the outcome of the committee will hold anyone to account but that will not be necessarily the end of it. If Parliament does not fulfil its obligations the way it should, this whole thing would end up in court anyway,” he said.

The two ministers will face the committee in Parliament from 10am on Wednesday.

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