It has not been disputed that President Jacob Zuma introduced Makhanya to the department of public works when plans were afoot to upgrade security features and add-on construction to his private KwaZulu-Natal residence.
The department is now suing Makhanya for R155 million for irregular and “shoddy workmanship” in contravention of supply chain management procedures.
Nxesi said: “The appointment was irregular, what I cannot do is agree to that the president influenced the appointment … it’s absurd in the extreme.”
Another 12 public works officials were also facing charges for contravening the public finance management act.
Nxesi was backed in his support of Zuma by ANC member of parliament (MP) Lindiwe Maseko.
Maseko and fellow party MP Dorris Dlakude pointed out that while Zuma may have introduced Makhanya, he should bear no responsibility for irregular spending of taxpayers’ money.
“The president did not appoint Makhanya. The minister of public works needs to take disciplinary action against the person who appointed Makhanya,” she said.
Dlakude referred to documents whereby Zuma had introduced Makhanya to the department on the basis that he was already working on the Nkandla property.
Nxesi was adamant there wasn’t any political interference.
He said: “I believe that is without substance, that’s all I can say.”
Nxesi said both reports by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and the Special Investgating Unit had been unable to substantiate any real claim of interference.
“As much as Makhanya was the principal manager, there’s nothing which says these funds must be diverted from this area to that. This was done internally,” he said.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane wouldn’t accept the assertion that there was no conflict of interest.
“Who gave him [Makhanya] the license to loot?” asked Maimane.
“What allows an independent contractor to instruct entire government departments to deviate funds?”