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CityPress - - News - MONDLI MAKHANYA mondli.makhanya@city­press.co.za

n or­der for us to un­der­stand why a lonely goat was found hid­ing in a R6 mil­lion ron­davel this week, why Par­lia­ment has be­come paral­ysed, and why adults are mak­ing fools of them­selves daily de­fend­ing fire pools and cat­tle cul­verts, we have to go back to the be­gin­ning.

The be­gin­ning is the turn of the cen­tury – when then deputy pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma be­gan con­struct­ing the com­pound that would later be­come South Africa’s mon­u­ment to cor­rup­tion. It was a rough time for Zuma, who was try­ing to cre­ate a de­cent abode for him­self and his large brood, but was kind of hard up for cash. So he did what he does best: he hit the road and went selling po­lit­i­cal favours.

One of his tar­gets was Sch­abir Shaik, then a wannabe ty­coon with a ten­dency for tak­ing short­cuts to the high life. This Shaik fel­low, who had some­how in­vei­gled him­self into ANC in­ner cir­cles as a re­sult of his fam­ily’s strug­gle cre­den­tials (his own strug­gle cre­den­tials were nonex­is­tent), had years ear­lier con­vinced Zuma that he could be his fi­nan­cial ad­viser. What Zuma did not know was that Shaik wanted to take ad­van­tage of the bur­den that Zuma had cre­ated for him­self through his habit of sir­ing a child ev­ery rainy sea­son. He knew he could use this to cre­ate a mas­terser­vant de­pen­dency.

At the time, Shaik was mak­ing ro­man­tic eyes with French arms com­pany Thom­son-CSF (later re­named Thales), which had se­cured a piece of South Africa’s multi­bil­lion-rand arms deal. Hav­ing picked up in­tel­li­gence that Thom­son-CSF wanted a BEE part­ner, Shaik put for­ward the name of his own Nkobi Hold­ings.

But the French were not fully cog­nisant of South Africa’s def­i­ni­tion of black and were a lit­tle con­fused that this pro­posed BEE part­ner was nei­ther a Khu­malo, a Mokoena nor a Nevhutalu. So, as in other in­stances in which he had needed to prove his BEE sta­tus, Shaik sent his er­rand boy to do the con­vinc­ing. The er­rand boy, as al­ways, obe­di­ently did as he was told. Af­ter sev­eral re­quests for meet­ings, which he asked for un­der pres­sure from his master, he fi­nally got to meet the French af­ter the con­clu­sion of an of­fi­cial visit to the UK.

This meet­ing was to prove strate­gic to Thom­son-CSF, which would later need high­level pro­tec­tion from pros­e­cu­tion for its part in arms deal-re­lated cor­rup­tion. At his master’s be­hest, Zuma – who was now deputy pres­i­dent of the re­pub­lic – read­ily of­fered this pro­tec­tion in re­turn for some lu­cre.

The Faus­tian pact was made in a Dur­ban meet­ing in March 2000 when Thom­son–CSF ex­ec­u­tive Alain Thetard promised Zuma an “ef­fort” of R500 000 a year in re­turn for pro­tec­tion.

Which brings us to the ge­n­e­sis of South Africa’s most fa­mous res­i­dence.

Mpumalanga busi­ness­woman Nora FakudeNkuna kick-started the pro­ject in Fe­bru­ary 2000 when her com­pany, Bohlabela Wheels, paid ar­chi­tects R34 000 to de­sign the res­i­dence.

Over the course of the year, she paid another R140 000, in tranches of R100 000 and R40 000, to devel­oper Eric Malen­gret. The rea­sons for her gen­eros­ity are not clear, but some scur­rilous in­di­vid­u­als have al­leged that when­ever Zuma vis­ited his then Swazi fiancée Seben­tile Dlamini, he would stop over at Fakude-Nkuna’s Mpumalanga home for a rest, and do the same on his way back.

In Oc­to­ber 2000, Zuma ran into a cash crunch, at which point he be­gan to ha­rass Shaik for money to sup­port the con­struc­tion pro­ject. Busi­ness­man Vi­vian Reddy – who, just like Shaik, played the po­lit­i­cal ac­cess game like an ace – paid Malen­gret some money to keep the pro­ject go­ing. Ir­ri­tated by Zuma’s ha­rass­ment and the bal­loon­ing costs of the pro­ject, Shaik or­dered Malen­gret to stop con­struc­tion, say­ing: “Does Zuma think money grows on trees?”

De­spite this, Shaik ha­rassed the French for Zuma’s an­nual “ef­fort”, which was now des­per­ately needed for con­struc­tion to con­tinue. In one let­ter, Shaik, who was clearly get­ting ex­as­per­ated by Zuma’s nag­ging and Thom­son-CSF’s tar­di­ness, wrote to Thetard: “Kindly ex­pe­dite our ar­range­ment as soon as pos­si­ble as mat­ters are be­com­ing ex­tremely ur­gent with my client.”

The “ef­fort” ar­rived in the form of con­vo­luted trans­ac­tions, which were clearly de­signed to hide the fact that it was a bribe. A now happy Zuma con­tin­ued do­ing favours for his friends and mak­ing trips to Swaziland with the oblig­a­tory rest stops in Mpumalanga.

In 2002, long af­ter the com­ple­tion of the pro­ject, Zuma ap­plied for a R900 000 bond through FNB with the as­sis­tance of Reddy, his other sugar daddy.

Then, in 2009, with the as­sis­tance of the ANC, Zuma ap­plied for a bond from the peo­ple of South Africa. This bond was unique in that no re­pay­ment in­stal­ments were re­quired, another world first for South African bank­ing in­no­va­tion.

Be­cause of this unique na­ture of the loan, the bond­holder kept draw­ing on it un­til the cost of the R2 mil­lion prop­erty es­ca­lated to R246 mil­lion.

And that is how we got here – this bad place where no con­ver­sa­tion is com­plete with­out at least one men­tion of Nkandla.

The Nkandla pro­ject was born out of cor­rup­tion and grubby pol­i­tics. So it should be no sur­prise that it has come to be em­blem­atic of all that is wrong, cor­rupt, dirty, un­eth­i­cal and morally de­crepit in South Africa.

In its wake, this hur­ri­cane has left a trail of de­struc­tion and claimed many vic­tims. It has de­stroyed in­sti­tu­tions and pro­fes­sional lives. It has di­verted at­ten­tion from per­ti­nent chal­lenges that face a coun­try that has to deal with poverty, un­em­ploy­ment and as­so­ci­ated so­cial ills on the back of 1.8% eco­nomic growth.

But one of the most cor­rod­ing ef­fects of Nkandla is that it has spawned an army of liars. This army has been mo­bilised in­side the state, in Par­lia­ment, in the gov­ern­ing party and in greater so­ci­ety. Its mis­sion is to man­u­fac­ture lies to pro­tect the res­i­dent of the es­tate. The lies have grown big­ger and be­come more un­be­liev­able as the cri­sis has es­ca­lated. They have be­come more ridicu­lous as the in­de­fen­si­ble has be­come more in­de­fen­si­ble.

In the end, like all struc­tures with shaky foun­da­tions, the Nkandla moun­tain of lies will come crash­ing down.

PHOTO: HER­MAN VER­WEY

MOUN­TAIN PAR­ADISE

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s home cost R246 mil­lion to build

PHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE

CAS­TLES IN THE SAND A sculp­tor, who didn’t dis­close his name, has built a fan­tasy sand castle on the beach in Dur­ban to de­pict the pres­i­dent’s home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal. At the bot­tom right is the fire pool

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