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.
Following the 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 believes 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 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.