Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s report on controversial security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home concluded that all features served a security purpose and that the president did not have to repay the State for any part of the R246 million project.
“The State President is therefore not liable to pay for any of these security measures,” the long-awaited 50-page report read out by Nhleko at Parliament on Thursday stated in its conclusion.
Briefing the media on the findings, Nhleko said he hoped the release of the report would bring an “amicable” end to the controversy that has plagued Zuma for years.
During his lengthy and detailed briefing, Nhleko explained that the “amphitheatre” erected at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead was in fact a meeting point during security emergencies, and not for entertainment.
Reading out his report into whether President Zuma should pay back a portion of the costs used to effect security upgrades to his homestead, Nhleko said it was not an amphitheatre at all, as stated in Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into the security upgrades, but served three purposes.
The open paved area was an “illuminated” meeting point in case of security emergencies.
“In case of any fire threats, bomb threat or medical emergencies the occupants of the homestead would assemble at this particular area referrred to as ‘amphitheatre’,” said Nhleko.
The area was also a place where security forces could gather for briefings and debriefings during emergencies. Lastly, it was used to prevent soil erosion caused by water run-off.
Nhleko’s report was also at odds with Madonsela’s report on whether the cattle kraal was a security feature.
The minister said the kraal was built to prevent animals from setting off motion detector alarms in the “high security zone” of the homestead.
On the visitor’s centre, Nhleko said it was indeed vital to secure the President.
“There is a need for this facility so as to control and secure all the President’s meetings and other high level official engagements in line with acceptable protocols and/or etiquette, norms and standards.”
The swimming pool ensured the security of the President as it served a critical fire-fighting purpose, Nhleko’s also report concluded.
Nhleko said an exercise conducted by the Nkandla fire and rescue service in February this year showed they were not equipped properly to fight fires at the homestead which consisted of various thatch roof buildings.
The exercise showed using water from the swimming pool as opposed to fire hydrants was more effective to fighting fires.
“During the demonstration, the chief fire officer for Umhlathuze established that the suction pump could draw sufficient water from the pool at the required speed, whereas the fire hydrant’s lack of necessary water pressure was evident.”
Nhleko showed journalists a video of the exercise – complete with dramatic music playing in the background, and a firefighter standing next to Nkandla pool – explaining why the pool was a better source of water than fire hydrants.
In March last year, Madonsela found in her report that Zuma should pay back a portion of the money used to upgrade his homestead. She deemed the swimming pool, amphitheatre, cattle kraal, chicken run, and visitor’s centre “non-security upgrades”.