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High prices pay for poor quality at Nkandla

By Staff Writer
The Nkandla ad hoc committee were confronted by incomplete upgrades and shoddy workmanship when they visited the Nkandla homestead of President Jacob Zuma. Besides surveying the security upgrades the visit was also meant to assess whether the facts in the Public Protector’s report ‘Secure in Comfort’ could be supported.
 
What the committee did find was that the prices for incomplete upgrades were grossly inflated. Furthermore, it has been noted that the quality of the workmanship is poor.
 
In a statement Dr Corné Mulder, chief whip of the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), said that the visit to Nkandla has “confirmed that various disturbing questions about the whole Nkandla development have to be answered urgently.”
 
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said: “Having toured the extravagant property, it is clear that the upgrades far exceed the minimum requirement to secure the private home of a President of the Republic, and would not have been undertaken to that scale were it not for the President’s intervention. There is direct causality between the escalation of the scope of Nkandla, and Jacob Zuma’s occupation of the Office of the President.”
 
The DA disrupts the media tour
 
While members of the ad hoc committee were touring the President’s private compound, members of the media were touring the 21 houses for the security personnel, as well as the clinic.
 
The media were joined by some members of the DA, who reportedly asked questions of the officials that were not answered.
 
In response to claims that the DA disrupted the media tour of Nkandla, Mabine Seabe, spokesperson to the leader of the DA, told Justmoney: “The DA had accompanied members of the media on a tour, [with] MPs and MPLs, in order to fulfil their oversight duties. The public representatives, which included DA Chief Whip, John Steenhuisen MP, asked questions on behalf of the people of South Africa, who they account to.”
 
However, the DA’s behaviour has been criticised, not only by the officials at the visit, but also the media. According to one report, the ANC called the DA’s conduct “a disgraceful stunt”.
 
The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) noted: “It was unfortunate that some DA members decided to participate in the part of the tour organised and reserved for journalists. Their conduct is unacceptable and has potential to politicise a non-partisan and innocuous media tour.”
 
According to Seabe, the questions that the DA posed were “related to costs and who was staying at the various unoccupied units. The officials conducting the tour rudely refused to answer questions.”
 
Seabe added that “once the questions became too much,” the officials suspended the tour.
 
Limited media access
 
Sanef has noted its disappointment to the limited access granted to the media during the ad hoc committee’s visit to Nkandla.
 
“Sanef and media houses had requested the chair of the ad hoc committee, Cedric Frolick (ANC), and the speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to give media access to the residence to enable it observe all the committee’s activities. In their response, both claimed that they “have no legal authority” to grant the media access. The media were not permitted to observe the site visit by the MPs, and a separate media tour was granted to a limited section of Nkandla,” stated Sanef.
 
It added: “The aim of the journalists’ visit was not to inspect or intrude into the president’s private residence, but it was part of their duty to inform the public regarding a matter of enormous public interest given the public expenditure involved. It was within this context that the MPs visited the residence.  Denying the media a complete access and preventing them from accompanying MPs are an unreasonable and unjustified infringement of the public’s right to know.”
 
The high cost of upgrades
 
“If the upgrades were indeed necessary for security; their installation was not a cost-effective use of public funds as they were far in excess of the minimum standard required to meet security needs,” revealed the DA.
 
Mulder noted: “More than R246 million was spent, but there is absolutely no sign of the money being used sensibly.
 
“What is furthermore disturbing is that various projects have not been completed, which will inevitably bring about further costs.
 
“The craftsmanship observed during the visit was consistently of a poor quality. The public has good reason to be seriously concerned about what had transpired at Nkandla.”
 
Seabe agreed, stating: “From what we saw, some features are incomplete and already falling apart. Not only were prices inflated but the workmanship is amateurish.”
 
The DA added: “The construction of a swimming pool with surrounding entertainment area cannot be accepted as the most appropriate means to address concerns regarding fire safety, nor were the houses constructed for the SANDF at a cost of R6 million each at all reflective of this exorbitant price tag. If the purpose of the upgrades was to secure the President, the South African public did not get value for their money. But rather, unfairly, footed the bill for trimmings that the President himself must be held liable for.”
 
According to Seabe, “the only outcome that is just, is that the Public Protector’s report is implemented and the President pays back a reasonable portion of the cost to [the] people of South Africa. Our calculations on the non-security features say that President Zuma is liable for R52.9 million.
 
“We are awaiting a court judgement, which will reinforce the Public Protector’s remedial action steps. If that judgement confirms that the Public Protector’s report is enforceable, then the President will have no choice but to pay what he owes to the people of South Africa.”

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