Nkandla architect’s date in court with the SIU postponed

Minenhle Makhanya. (Naturals Cool)

Minenhle Makhanya. (Naturals Cool)

Minenhle Makhanya, the architect and project manager who was responsible for upgrades to former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home, has been granted a postponement by the high court in Pietermaritzburg, to allow him more time to prepare his defence against the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The trial was scheduled to commence on June 10. In the civil matter, the SIU is seeking to hold Makhanya personally liable for R155-million of the roughly R245-million spent on the security upgrades to Nkandla. Makhanya was named in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s ‘State of Capture’ report in March 2014, catapulting him to infamy after it emerged that he made R16.5-million out of the Nkandla project.

The entire project, the SIU said, should have cost only R28-million in total.
With Makhanya in charge, it ended up costing nearly 10 times that much.

The SIU’s calculations are based on the rules set by the Cabinet itself. The only upgrades that could be legally paid for by the state were those proposed by the police and military, costed by the department of public works and then approved by the minister of police and the president.

In terms of the rules, the SIU said in 2014, the president should have requested a security evaluation of his private residence; the resulting plan must be put to him “for his consideration and consent”.

That initial plan, according to the SIU, would have carried a price tag of R28-million. 

Following Madonsela’s report, the SIU went to court seeking an order setting aside Makhanya’s appointment as principal agent and architect of the Nkandla project, as well as damages of R155-million, the SIU said in a statement on Tuesday.

The unit says Makhanya authorised and oversaw the implementation of improvements and the installation of security measures at Nkandla, which it alleges was “in excess and beyond the security assessments and requirements” of the police and defence force.

The architect, the investigators believe, had both professional and contractual duties in which he failed as the principal agent for the state. He over-designed security features, authorised work not related to security, overpaid for work that was done, paid for work that was possibly never done, and paid for work that could not be defined.

The R155-million noose around Makhanya’s neck marked the first time since the Scorpions charged Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik that a law enforcement agency has taken aim at a close associate of Zuma.

In order to escape being saddled with the claim, Makhanya would almost certainly have to provide proof under oath to dispute the SIU claim. He 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.

Avoiding liability would require showing orders from above — and each step up the ladder of responsibility could bring new individuals into the pool of those who can be held responsible.

The SIU will now apply for a new trial date, which will probably be set down for some time next year. The case could lay the groundwork for future action against other parties.

Kiri Rupiah

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