The Trouble With Nkandla...

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Just imagine the scenario. You find a piece of land in a rural area in Nkandla that you don't own and you build a house on it. Not just one home mind you, but a smattering of dwellings, comprising numerous units to house your growing family.

Then, because you are the president, government takes over and spends more than R200-million upgrading the security on the premises. Underground bunkers are built, lifts installed and...a new tuck shop is erected. Undoubtedly a secure investment as the president has a 40-year lease and has agreed to pay rent of R800 a month for the duration of the lease. The Department of Public Works also comes to the party and rents the 6.6 hectares adjacent to the Nkandla compound for a paltry R1 300 per month.

When questions are asked about the outrageous spend, government promptly labels the homestead a National Key Point, essentially cutting off any sort of public inquiry into the project. However, an investigation is being carried out as to how so much public money was allocated to what is essentially the president’s private home, but is promptly labelled a secret when it is completed.

So where to from here? Despite the Deputy Minister of Public Works voicing his outrage on national radio, the burglar bars have been installed, the concrete for the helipad thrown and the tuck shop built. An inquiry seems a bit pointless now. Surely the time to ask questions and stop the process was when the money was haemorrhaging from Public Work’s bank account?

Of course questions need to be asked and answered. Safeguards need to be put in place, either capping the amount spent on one individual’s property, or at the very least, if not making the proposals public for security reasons, giving a breakdown on what the money is going to be spent on - long before any cheques are written.

Are heads going to roll or is the entire matter going to be brushed under the carpet? For once it seems that various organisations are unwilling to let the matter drop. While opposition parties attempt to gain access to the 'secret' report, The Mail and Guardian is taking Public Works Minister, Thulas Nxesi to court in order to compel him to release details on the full funding of Nkandla.

It would appear that the only people who are smiling at the moment are President Zuma and whoever owns the land. In addition to receiving R800 per month for at least the next 40 years, the owner has seen his asset grow exponentially. Simply put, what was once merely a piece of land in the rural area of Zululand has been transformed into what has to be one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in South Africa, funded for the most part by South African taxpayers.

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