When I finished reading the Special Investigation Unit report into Nkandla last week, I was shocked at President Jacob Zuma’s response to its questions and those of Public Protector’s. Both the President’s responses – unfortunately, and in my view – show disdain with which he treats these institutions. Worse, the responses are disrespectful to us taxpayers who have footed the Nkandla bill to date and will continue to do so until he dies, and even long after had died. Below are detailed questions both the SIU sent to the President for his response.
THE PUBLIC PROTECTOR
According to the Public Protector on Nkandla, a letter was written to the President on 29 January 2013 informing him of an investigation of complaints referred to her office regarding Nkandla upgrades.
The Public Protector “specifically stated the details of the complaint” lodged by Prof Pierre De Vos in connection with the statement the President made to the National Assembly on 15 November 2012 that the development of the first phase of his private residence was financed by a commercial bank that secured a mortgage bond in respect of the property. In her letter to the President, the Public Protector said:
“You will be afforded an opportunity to respond in full to the allegations, once I am in a position to provide you with more detailed information regarding the matters concerned. It would be of assistance to me to consider the merits of the complaint lodged by Prof De Vos, if you could request the Presidency to provide me with a copy of the registered bond relating to your private residence and any other relevant documentation and/or information pertaining to the funding thereof. Such documentation and information will, due to the nature thereof, be kept secure and handled with the appropriate discretion and confidence.”
When no response was received from the President, despite being approached for a response on 11 April 2013, 21 June 2013 and 19 August 2013, the Public Protector further wrote to the President again on 29 July 2013. Again, no response came forth.
It was only on 11 August 2013 that the President “personally” met with the Public Protector regarding the Nkandla upgrades investigations – just a day before her inspection of the work implemented by the Department of Public Works at her private residence. During this meeting, the President, according to the Public Protector, was also provided with a set of written questions relating to the investigations over the upgrades at his Nkandla private residence.
“The President undertook to provide me with a written response. As no response to my questions was forthcoming, I approached Dr Lubisi, the Director-General in the Presidency, again requesting his assistance in this regard, on 26 August 2013. A copy of my written questions with annexures had to be provided to the Presidency, at its request, on 27 August 2013,” wrote the Public Protector in her final report released in March this year, 2014.
Still no response came from the President or the Presidency.
This then led to the Public Protector writing “directly” to the President on 16 September 2013 requesting his response to her set of questions. In her letter, the Public Protector asked the President the following questions:
Did you or the Presidency request that security measures be installed at your private residence at Nkandla after you were appointed as the President in May 2009, as provided for in the Cabinet Policy on Security Measures at the Private Residences of the President, Deputy President and former Presidents and Deputy Presidents, dated 20 August 2003? If so, kindly indicate who made the request, when and how.
Were the measures that the Department of Public Works intended to implement at your private residence communicated to you by the Minister of Police, as contemplated by the Cabinet Policy? If so, what were your impressions of the proposed measures and did you formally consent thereto?
Where you at any stage informed of the cost of the proposed security measures? If so, who presented the cost to you, what was the amount, and how did you respond to it?
Your private residence was declared a National Key Point by the Minister of Police, in terms of the National Key Points Act, on 8 April 2010. According to the evidence obtained during the investigation you were notified accordingly by means of a notice (Annexure A) signed by the Minister of Police. Can you kindly confirm that this notice was served on you?
What was you understanding of the declaration of your private residence as a National Key Point in terms as your responsibilities as the owner?
Did you at any stage respond in terms of the notice by taking measures to secure your private residence, as required by the National Key Points Act and the notice? If so, what measures were taken?
From the evidence it appears that the Minister of Police acted on your behalf, as contemplated by section 3A of the National Key Points Act, when he had your private residence secured. Were you notified of this, as is required by the Act and if so how?
Were you ever advised by the Minister of Police that any part of the cost of securing your private residence as a National Key Point would be recovered from you? If so, when and how?
According to the evidence, you met with representatives of the Department of Public Works and the South African Police Service at you private residence on 12 August 2009, where you were briefed on the security measures that were to be installed in the three new dwellings that you were constructing. Is this correct, and if so can you kindly explained what transpired at this meeting.
The evidence obtained during the investigation also indicates that you complained on several occasions about the slow progress made with the implementation of the security project. Is this correct, and if so can you kindly explain the reasons for your concerns and how it was addressed?
According to the evidence, you requested the former Minister of Public Works, Mr G Doidge, to look into the delay. Is that correct? If so, did he report back to you and what were the nature of his reports?
Mr M Makhanya, the architect that you appointed in respect of your private construction on the premises, was also appointed by the Department of Public Works as the Principal Agent for the security project. Did he present you with the designs of the Department of Public Works’ security project? If so, can you recall which designs were presented to you and how you responded to it?
According to the documentation obtained during the investigation, former Minister of Public Works, Ms G Mahlangu-Nkabinde, informed you in writing of the progress made with the implementation of the security project, shortly after she was appointed, on 5 November 2010. (Annexure B) Can you kindly look at the copy of this letter and indicate whether you received it and how you responded to it.
Former Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ms H Bogopane-Zulu indicated during the investigation that she discussed the security measures with you. She also raised the possible apportionment of costs of the security measures between you and the state with you and requested a document to be prepared by the project team in this regard. The document was prepared and delivered to the Ministry of Public Works. (Annexure C) Can you please look at this document and indicate whether it was presented to you, and if so what your response was?
If the document was not presented to you, was the apportionment of costs ever discussed with you? If so when and by whom?
Did you ever enquire into it, and if so what was the response that you received?
Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu also indicated that she discussed the conversion of the fire-pool on the premises into a swimming pool with you and that you supported the idea that it could be used to teach children of the village to swim. Is this correct?
Kindly indicate whether you are aware of the reasons why the fire-pool was converted into a swimming pool and whether the additional and apportionment of such costs were discussed with you. If so, who discussed it with you, and what was your response?
The implementation of the security project resulted in the relocation of four households that were living on the site. Were you consulted in connection with the relocation and, if so, what was your response? Did you issue any instructions in this regard?
According to the evidence, you apparently indicated that you were opposed to more contractors working on the site when Phase 2 of the project commenced, that is the construction of staff housing, etc. Is this correct and if so why were you opposed to more contractors? Did you issue any instructions in this regard?
Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu further indicated during the investigation that you supported her idea that the military clinic should be designed in such a way that it could also be used by members of the community. What is your response to that?
It was also indicated during the investigation that you raised concerns about the bullet resistant glass that was installed in your houses. Is this correct and if so, can you kindly explain?
A newspaper report alleged that two of your brothers, Messrs Joseph and Mike Zuma improperly benefitted from the security project when items that were destined for it were delivered at their houses. What is you comment on this allegation?
As indicated in my letter addressed to you on 29 January 2013 (Annexure D), I have also received a complaint in connection with a statement that you made to Parliament about the bond on the property concerned. I have repeatedly requested to be provided with the relevant documents to enable me to deal with this complaint. Are you now in a position to provide these documents?
Would you be willing to disclose the amount that you paid for the construction of the three new dwellings?
How often do you use your private residence at Nkandla for official purposes?
Is there any particular reason why you would prefer to use your private residence for official business rather than any one of the official residences that are available to you?
Did you at any stage enquire into the cost of the security project, which was obviously extensive? If not, did you not feel obliged to do so as the head of state and as a substantial amount of public money was obviously being spent?
How would you describe your involvement in the security project that was implemented by the Department of Public Works at your private residence?
On 1 October 2013 the President, through the Acting Secretary of the Cabinet at the time, responded to the Public Protector, saying:
As the political environment stabilized in the coming years with the advent of our new democracy, I now felt more confident to effect improvements to the family homestead in order that it could cater for our needs more adequately. I proceeded to engage a building contractor to effect the improvements to my homestead. Several new rondavels, each self-contained, were constructed. These improvements were financed by a home loan obtained from one of the four largest commercial banking institutions in the Republic upon satisfaction of their collateral requirements.
The property is still subject to a mortgage and I continue to meet my financial commitments in terms thereof. In the ensuing years and as I began to play a leading role in government, I had to submit to the security protocols which senior government officials are subjected to. Static security was provided from the South African Police Services (SAPS), (sic) Ulundi, while protection services were provided from SAPS Eshowe. This meant that additional rondavels were constructed on my homestead in order to cater for the accommodation of those police officials assigned for my protection, given the lack of infrastructure in Nkandla. In addition, a car port and storerooms were also constructed.
In 1999 I was appointed as the Deputy President of the Republic. As a consequence of my increased responsibilities in government I received a higher volume of frequent guests at my home in Nkandla. This, coupled with the fact that my family had grown over the years, my family and I decided to embark on fairly extensive and modern improvements to the property. To this end we engaged contractors and commissioned the building of three new houses which would be developed in phases over additional neighbouring land which we acquired with the consent of the local chief. The construction of the houses commenced under the direction of Minenhle Makhanya Architects.
In 2009 I was appointed as President of the Republic. Immediately upon my inauguration, members of the security cluster informed me regarding theresults of the security assessment which attached to the office that I now hold, including my residence at Nkandla. As President of the Republic I have the benefit of residences at Mahlambhandlophu in Pretoria, Genadendal in Cape Town and John Dube House in Durban, all of which I make extensive use of. Equally, I maintain my private residence at Nkandla.
Like most South Africans, I am particularly proud of my community and never miss an opportunity to go home to Nkandla-the demands of my work schedule permitting. I sometimes wish it otherwise, but I do not shed my status as President when I am at home in Nkandla. People continually visit me, seek my advice, support and counsel on a whole range of matters. Similarly, matters of government do not grind to a halt during these all too in-frequent visits to my homestead.
In the course of the engagements with the security cluster, I initially met with then Minister Doidge, senior SAPS officials and other government officials at my homestead in a consultative process regarding improved security due to my occupying the office of President of the Republic.I thereafter facilitated a meeting between the same grouping of persons and Minenhle Makhanya Architects, the consultant who was already engaged with building work at my home so that there would be as little disruption as possible to the work already commissioned.
From time to time I received briefings both formally and informally from the various Ministers engaged with the security enhancements although I was not intimately involved with the finer details. At these briefings I expressed concern with what appeared to be inordinately lengthy delays which impacted on my family. Equally, I found some of the security features like the bullets-proof (sic) windows an excessive encroachment on my use and enjoyment of my property.
Regarding the rationale for the adoption of particular security features, I deem it neither prudent nor proper for me to comment, particularly where the Public Protector has had access to a range of Ministers and officials properly tasked with this responsibility. The security upgrades are to be distinguished from the construction of buildings which provide infrastructural support for security personal (sic).
I take exception to the continued conflation of the security upgrades with the construction of buildings for the benefit of security personnel. Whilst neither were at my behest, the latter is directly attributable to the fact of my residence being located in a rural area with all the attendant challenges. Even people drawn from rural communities can play a role in the development of our constitutional democracy.
With regard to my address to parliament, I submit with respect, that insofar as it is alleged that I have misled parliament on the existence of my bond over the Nkandla Property, parliament is best placed to enquire into this matter should it so desire. Likewise, it is not proper for me to account for alleged conduct of members of my family who are not dependents of mine. Transgressions of the law by whomsoever should be reported to the appropriate authorities.”
As will be noted below, the Public Protector said the President’s response “did not provide answers to most of my written questions” and she then addressed another letter to him on 8 October 2013, listing the outstanding responses that were required and stated that:
“I regarded it as prudent to provide you with an opportunity to respond to these matters as part of my investigation and it would be appreciated if you could still consider doing so, to enable me to include your version of the events in my report. As far as your response in respect of my investigation into the complaint relating to the statement that you reportedly made to Parliament pertaining to the existence or not of a bond over your property is concerned, you will recall that I raised this with you when I informed you of my investigation, in my letter dated 29 January 2013.
I indicated in my said letter that the concern raised by the complainant is the impression that you might have violated the provisions of the Executive Ethics Code by misleading Parliament. I also referred you to the public statement of the Presidency of 20 November 2012 that the information pertaining to your bond would be made available to “an authorized agency or institution empowered by the law of the land”. You will respectfully agree with me that this includes the Public Protector.
In addition to the normal manner in which I approach investigations, I relied on the commitment in the Presidency’s statement when I approached you with the request on this aspect of my investigation.
I accordingly wish to appeal to you to provide me with the relevant documents pertaining to the bond that you referred to. The information contained in these documents will be handled discreetly as it relates to your private affairs. All that I really need to verify in this regard is that the bond exists and that it relates to your private residence at Nkandla. Providing me access to the documents in the presence of your legal advisors or the Secretary to the Cabinet will also suffice in this regard.”
In his response to the Public Protector on 24 October 2013, the President indicated that he required copies or excerpts of evidence, reports and documents that were referred to in the Public Protector’s questions, before he could respond.
According to the Public protector, the President further noted that:
“Regarding your request that I make available my personal bond documents for your perusal, I attach hereto the relevant transcript extracted from Hansard which bears out the following:
- The Zuma family has built their own home;
- The home has been there for a long time;
- I engaged the banks and am still paying a bond on the first phase of my home;
- I am still paying a bond this day.
Having regard to the content and context, it becomes abundantly clear that such bond relates to the first phase of the development and well before I assumed the office of President. As I understand, it does not relate to the period of your investigation nor does it shed light on any aspect thereof. Accordingly, I hold the view that the disclosure you seek would be unnecessary.”
Still not satisfied by the President’s response, the Public Protector, again, wrote back to him on 29 October 2013, reiterating that “the complaint that [she] received in respect of the bond does not relate to the security measures that were installed and implemented at [the President’s] private residence, but to the statement that he made in the National Assembly on 15 November 2012, the contents of which are contested.” The Public Protector further explained that the requested information was needed in order to “clarify this issue that I requested you to provide me with access to the bond documents. As matters stand at the moment, I am not in any position to make a finding on the merit of this complaint and would therefore urge you to reconsider my request in this regard.”
In his 24 October 2013 response to the Public Protector, the President added that that:
“When I became the President, all of us in the family agreed to extend our home, as I was extending it. Then government came and said that it had to install security features at my residence. By the time government came, the contractors were on site that had been enlisted by the family and not by the government or Public Works. Government had a plan regarding what it wanted to do. Government wanted to improve the fence, etc. I told government that I had my own plan-which was a comprehensive plan- to extend my home. What then happened was that I allowed government to meet with the contractors who were already on site because government, from a security point of view, insisted that they needed to participate.
So, even the manner in which the question was asked-the question being: have you instructed the Minister to tell the contractors to stop working- suggests that the contractors were brought by Public Works. Public Works found those contractors constructing my home. They had to agree to what government wanted them to do at my home. The government had specific things they wanted to do to my houses, not build houses for me. A wrong impression has been created in the country, that the government has built a home for me. That is not true”.
From this, the Public Protector never received any further response from the President and or his office regarding this matter at the time. The manner in which the President responds to questions can be seen not only in the Public Protector’s investigations into his private resident upgrades in Nkandla but can also be seen in any other instances where he had appeared (and succeeded) to be dodging questions and not answering them in a clear manner that a reasonable persons – worse a President – would.
The President’s responses have always been evasive and not helpful in any way. In fact, his responses to questions have been quite useless, if you ask me. This tendency can also be seen in the manner in which he answered the SIU questions (see below).
SPECIAL INVESTIGATING UNIT
In its report submitted to the President in August 2014, the Special Investigating Unit investigation report asked the President, whether, among others:
- He had appointed Minenhle Makhanya, R&G, Ibhongo to effect the private improvements at his Nkandla residence, he had instructed or expressed a preference that they (and not any new contractors) be appointed by the Department of Public Works, and if so, whether that instruction or preference was to override the processes of that the DPW was required to follow in the engagement of the aforementioned professions,
- He had indicated that he wanted a fence as opposed to a brick wall as perimeter, and whether he was consulted on the colour of the fence,
- He had been engaged on the landscaping and the signing off of documents, and whether the landscaping between the houses was for his account,
- The samples of the bullet-resistant glass were discussed with him, whether he had agreed to the installation thereof in the critical rooms, and whether he had requested that the bullet-resistant glass windows should be able to be opened,
- He had requested that the bullet-resistant glass on the balcony (screen) be changed to allow for opening sections in the screen plus two new windows to the master bedroom in House 1, whether the details/designs complied with his with his requests, and whether they were presented to him for sign-off,
- The scope of the interior designers’works extended to the security upgrades, whether Khayile informed him of what the amount for his account was, and if so, what the amount was,
- He had been notified of progress and delays in the project, and whether he was satisfied with the progress report that had been submitted to him,
- Target dates and relocations of families had been discussed with him,
- He had imposed the deadline to have the site “operational” by 1 December 2010,
- He had indicated a preference for the same contractors that were used for the Phase 1 building works to be used for Phase 2 building works,
- The security and electronic designs had been presented to him, that he had discussed the fire pool with Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu or Makhanya, and if so, what decision was taken,
- He had discussed the tunnel extension with Makhanya, and if so, what decision had been taken,
- He had billed for the electrical reticulation for the residences,
- He had given guidance on the design of the Visitor’s lounge, and that he had requested the Visitor’s lounge, and whether he was informed of any project overrun,
- Whether separate cost structures had been maintained for the project, in order words, whether security and related costs had been borne by the DPW and whether the costs for all direct contracts had been funded by the President.
Responding to the SIU questions in a 3-page letter dated 8 August 2014, the President pointed out that:
- He was not present at any of the meetings at which certain views, opinions and comments were ascribed to him. He added that officials who reported on any reference to views expressed by him were senior government officials who were or ought to have been familiar with procurement and SCM processes.
- If these officials laboured under the impression that he was the origin of any undue pressure being brought to bear upon them in the discharge of their responsibilities, they were in a position to report such improper conduct to the constitutional institutions which have been established to deal with such conduct.
- The President indicated that officials are aware that the minutes of meetings do not constitute a record of a decision taken by a particular department, that this was simply how government works.
- The President denied having expressed any view regarding the engagement of a specific professional or contract. He said he merely facilitated an introduction and briefing of the existing contractor to government officials in order that they would be aware of his pre-existing plans for his private home.
- The President further denied having expressed a preference for a fence for perimeter protection. He said that he expressed the view that the bullet resistant glass was restrictive to his use and enjoyment and (sic) the property and he subsequently engaged in a discussion on how his views could accommodated in light of the requirement for the bullet resistant glass.
- The Pressident, noted the SIU report, denied haing expressed any view regarding the engagement of an enterior decorator, landcaper or any like contractor for their scope fo work.
- He did, from time to time, express frustration at the lack of progress and the resultant disruption.
- The President indicated that any comment or input made by him was not done with the undue intention which certain of the individuals involved in the project have ascribed to it, nor had any of these officials attempted to obtain hsi direct views or responses outside of those which he had set out in his response to the SIU.
Having read responses by the President to questions into Nkandla investigations by the Public Protector and the Special Investigating Unit – and the disdain with which he treats these two institutions – and our courts too in some instances – does it then come as a surprise that he behaved in the manner he did when asked by oppositions parties recently when he intends to #PayBackTheMoney as recommended by the Public Protector’s report early this year, March 2014?
What even makes it worse is the extent to which the ruling party, African National Congress, has gone – including the SACP – to protect and shield the President from accountability in Parliament.
They accuse those trying to hold the President to accountability through questions in Parliament – mainly opposition parties – of undermining that institutions, and now are of the opinion that the President should not be held to account through Parliament but through Izimbosos.
If the President’s answers to the SIU and the Public Protector questions are anything to go by – “[Zuma] never loved us [taxpayers, and South Africans in general]” – his answers to the questions mentioned above say it all.
WHO REQUESTED THE SECURITY UPGRADES AT NKANDLA?
Did President Jacob Zuma request security assessment that led to security upgrades at his private residence at Nkandla?
According the SIU, it is the Cabinet Memo (and not the National Key Point as had been previously argued by govt in its two other reports: Ministerial Task Team and Public Protector) that was used or led to the security upgrades at the President’s Nkandla private residence (following the more than 1 security assessment reports). The SIU further, and importantly so, notes that “at the request of the President……, the SAPS, together with SSA, shall evaluate the security situation of private properties that are owned and regularly used by the President….. and (in exceptional cases) their immediate families.”
The report further notes that the DPW will prepare a cost estimates of the upgrades report and submit it to SAPS which will in turn “advise Minister of Safety and Security on the proposed safety measures, including the cost thereof. Whatever measures are approved by the Minister of Safety and Security shall subsequently be communicated to the President… for consent. The SAPS shall thereafter submit the measures, as approved by the President…, to the DPW, which shall approach the DPW Minister for approval of the costs of the structural measures.” Following the approval by the DPW Minister, these will then be implemented.
Almost like in the Public Protector report, the SIU later in its report says that the SAPS, SSA, and DPW took it upon themselves without a request from the President to do the security assessment at the President’s private residence at Nkandla particularly following his appointment (and even prior) as the President.
This raises very important questions which the neither the President’s response (above) nor the SIU report itself has answered, which, among others, are:
- If the President ought to have made a security assessment “request” for security upgrades at his private residence at Nkandla as per the Cabinet Memo, why did he not do so?
- Who at/in the SAPS, SSA and DPW directed that these security evaluations/assessments be done at the President’s private residence?
- Was the President consulted prior to these security assessments being done at his residence, including an assessment done prior to his appointment as President?
- Did he, the President, approve of these or any security assessments being done at his private residence by SAPS, DPW and SSA without his having made a “request” as is required of him by the Cabinet Memo?
- If he didn’t request the security assessment as the Cabinet Memo required of him because there was no threat – perceived or real – to his life and immediate family’s – why did he agree to these being carried out, if he did?
- Based on the answer to question 2 above, why did they deem it fit to do the security assessment (followed by the security upgrades) at the President’s private residence if he did not make such a request as is required of him by the Cabinet Memo?
- As noted in the SIU report above that cost estimates of the security upgrades should (have been) communicated with the President, did the President acknowledge such cost estimate report?
- And if so, what was his response to it taking into account that he never asked or requested a security assessment (and thereby security upgrades) at his private residence to begin with because neither his life or lives of his immediate family were in danger, hence no such a request, unless he did?
THE ‘PRIVATE CONTRACTOR’?
According to a Security Measures at President’s Private residence: Nkandla (Prestige Project A): Special Report by Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI) published: “there was a further security assessment done in 2010 by a private contractor [at the private residence of President Jacob Zuma at Nkandla]” following the assessments done by earlier.
Who is this “private contractor” and why hasn’t both the SIU and Public Protector not mentioned this ‘private contractor’ and identified it by name?