President Jacob Zuma has submitted his long-overdue response to the public protector’s Nkandla report. When Thuli Madonsela released her final report in March, she stipulated that Zuma must respond to the National Assembly within 14 days – he did not.

Initially Zuma had said he would wait for the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to finalise its own investigation into the matter, before he reported back to Parliament. Instead, he consulted the SIU’s interim progress report, as well as the joint standing committee’s and Madonsela’s finalised reports. At the time of his submission, which is dated 14 August, Parliament was in recess.

According to Parliament’s website, “the report will now be published in the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports publication which will be available on 15 August. This is a matter the National Assembly will deal with when it reconvenes”.

Pointing fingers elsewhere

In his 20-page report Zuma glosses smoothly over Madonsela’s claims that he acted unethically in not clamping down on spending straight away, thereby protecting state resources and taxpayers’ money. He makes no mention of the cattle kraal, chicken coop or fire/swimming pool, which Madonsela deemed to be beyond what was required for his security.

He concludes, among others, that the minister of police must determine whether he – Zuma – is liable for any contribution “in respect of the security upgrades having regard to the legislation, part practices, culture and findings contained in the respective reports”. Madonsela had recommended that Zuma ask the National Treasury and the SAPS to determine a reasonable cost of the non-security features – including the kraal, chicken run, pool and visitors’ centre – and that he pay a reasonable percentage of this from his own pocket.

Download the full report submitted by Zuma to Speaker Baleka Mbete.

Recouping millions spent excessively

The SIU, meanwhile, is putting the squeeze on Minenhle Makhanya, the architect not only of the Nkandla upgrades, but also possibly of Zuma’s downfall, according to the Mail & Guardian. Being right in the thick of things, it’s now thought that the architect, of all people, would be able to reveal how much the president really knew about the goings-on back home.

Makhanya was Zuma’s private architect throughout the project, and was reportedly personally chosen by him to oversee the renovations and upgrades. Zuma’s report does concede that he introduced Makhanya to the various government officials involved – but so that they could be “appraised of the pre-existing plans for construction of the residences and that there would be as little disruption as possible to the work already commissioned”. He does not state that this introduction should lead to Makhanya becoming the supervisor of the entire project.

The SIU, on the other hand, claims that Makhanya’s appointment was irregular. It's lodged a R155-million claim against Makhanya, saying that this is the amount spent on unnecessary features which were not mentioned in the official security assessments, carried out in 2009 and 2010 by police security experts. These features, none of which appear in regulatory instruments either, include air-conditioning, landscaping, and the infamous fire pool. This enormous sum must be paid back to the state, says the SIU.

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President Jacob Zuma has submitted his long-overdue response to the public protector’s Nkandla report – four months after Thuli Madonsela’s deadline. He has managed to pass the buck on the matter of repayment, stating that he wishes the minister of police to make the call.