By Tarryn-Leigh Solomons
The week-long trial in the R155 million civil recovery proceedings against Nkandla architect Minenhle Makhanya started in camera at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday.
This was after the Special Tribunal was alerted to information on private security details which would expose former president Jacob Zuma’s security.
In March 2014, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her final report on upgrades at Zuma’s Nkandla homestead. She found that Zuma and his family benefited from measures implemented in the name of security.
The “Secure in Comfort” report found that Zuma and his family had unduly benefited from the R246m spent on non-security features at Nkandla – including a swimming pool, kraal, chicken run and visitors’ centre – and that he should pay back part of the money.
A civil claim was instituted against Makhanya after the upgrades at Zuma’s home were found to be excessive.
The matter was first enrolled in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in September 2014 and transferred to the Special Tribunal by agreement of the parties.
Makhanya was the principal architect in the security-related upgrades at Zuma’s private residence.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is now seeking to recover an estimated R155m from Makhanya, because of alleged irregularities in the contract which, it is contended, was awarded and amended several times in alleged violation of the legislative prescripts governing procurement in public institutions.
The hearing was scheduled for July but was postponed to end of September after Makhanya told the Special Tribunal that he did not have funds to cover the trial costs. He had applied to the Legal Aid Board for legal assistance which was declined.
Makhanya confirmed to Judge Kantharuby Pillay that because of his financial situation, he would be representing himself.
He said the SIU was using state funds to fight an ordinary man, while he had run out of resources.
Makhanya raised concerns about the media presence in court since he had already been found guilty in the court of public opinion.