Parliament’s Nkandla ad hoc committee conducted a visit to the presidential residence yesterday under rainy skies and in dull KwaZulu-Natal weather. Apart from Zuma’s residence, it was found that construction to police and army accommodation displayed shoddy workmanship, members of the committee said.
A largely criticised report by police minister Nathi Nhleko stipulates that Zuma did not have to pay back any money for his security upgrades. Nhleko said that of R249 million, the actual security upgrades cost around R70 million. The rest was spent on 21 houses – at almost R6 million each – for members of the SA National Defence Force and police.
But upon inspection, DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen said it became clear taxpayers were “completely ripped off”. “There was shoddy construction and the chalets are not even used,” he said.
“People who are staying in these (houses) are using foam mattresses on the floor. I even saw a goat (in a vacant house).” Questions needed answering as to why R135m was spent on these unsuitable facilities, he said.
Added to this was “the fact” that these facilities were situated a mere 5m from the perimeter fence. “And when I probed the minister of police, he said those facilities are divorced (from Nkandla), yet I was there and there is a 5m gap to the perimeter fence. For us to believe it’s divorced is a farce.”
Inside the fence however, was a “palatial home of someone who benefited from taxpayers’ money”, according to DA leader Mmusi Maimane. It was clear Zuma unduly benefited from the upgrades, he said. Maimane visited Zuma’s chicken run, cattle kraal, amphitheatre and a “fire pool” (purportedly for fire emergencies).
“There is no way those are security issues,” he said. The President is secure,” he said echoing words from Thuli Madonsela’a report. Of the 21 houses Maimane asked: “There were contractors who were overpaid – where did some of that money go?” Upon visiting the school, he said it was clear that the workmanship was poorly done. There was “lavish expenditure” on the clinic, said Maimane, but, it was nothing but an “empty shell”.
“The clinic is heavily secured with bullet-proof windows, but it is non-functional,” he said.