Of battleships and Nkandla

Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla ­homestead was born in arms-deal sin.

The ongoing saga of the construction, financing and outfitting of the president’s rural seat captures the mixture of chaos, influence and excess that seems to characterise Zuma’s relationship with money -- and with his many benefactors.

And, of course, the story of Nkandla also weaves in the thick strand of graft introduced by the notorious “encrypted fax”, which alleged that Zuma and Schabir Shaik had concluded a secret bribe agreement with French defence company Thomson-CSF.

The history of the Nkandla development set out in the report by audit firm KPMG prepared for Zuma’s trial is striking for how many people were involved in paying for it before the president spent a cent.

It was Zuma’s close friend, Mpumulanga businessperson Nora Fakude-Nkuna, who first approached architects on his behalf in February 2000 and it was her company, Bohlabela Wheels, that paid the R34 200 bill.

Indeed, it is a mystery how Zuma expected to be able to pay for the project at all, because his monthly living expenses were already more than double his monthly income -- unless, of course, he was expecting a new cash injection.

That is the view KPMG takes of the meeting between Zuma, Shaik and Thomson’s South African boss, Alain Thetard, which took place on about March 10 2000 in Durban.

The meeting was captured in Thetard’s March 17 2000 encrypted fax to his bosses in Paris setting out what transpired.

Thetard wrote that he had asked Shaik to obtain a “clear confirmation” from Zuma, or “at least an encoded declaration” to “validate” a request made by Shaik at the end of September 1999.

Thetard indicated that he had defined a code and Zuma had given the coded confirmation.

Thetard reminded his bosses of the two main objectives of the “effort” they were being asked to make: “Thomson-CSF’s protection during the current [arms deal] investigation” and “JZ’s permanent support for future projects”. An “effort” of R500 000 a year was indicated.

Shaik told his trial this meeting was about a donation to Zuma’s charitable education trust, an explanation rejected by the court. In February 2003, Zuma denied to Parliament such a meeting had taken place.

In any event, Zuma’s builder, Eric Malengret, started on the Nkandla project in about July 2000. The agreed price was R1  340 000.

Events proceeded as follows:
  • August 14 2000 -- R100 000 sourced from Bohlabela and Fakude-Nkuna is deposited to Malengret’s company account by Zuma’s nephew, Kusa;

  • October 4 2000 -- R40 000 more arrives from Bohlabela;

  • October 6 2000 -- Shaik writes to Thetard regarding “the subject matter agreed by ourselves in Pretoria … Several months later no real action. I share the sentiment with my party that he feels let down.” Shaik adds that this is “particularly unpleasing” as “my party” had “proceeded to an advanced stage on a certain sensitive matter”;

  • October 17 2000 -- former president Nelson Mandela’s R2-million cheque lands in Zuma’s account. On the same date Zuma, apparently by agreement with Mandela, issues a cheque for R1-million to Zuma’s charitable education trust;

  • October 18 2000 -- an unidentified person, named only as “Sew”, deposits R50 000 in notes to Malengret’s account for Nkandla. The same day, Shaik transfers R900 000 out of Zuma’s account to settle some of Zuma’s debt to the Nkobi group. An amount of R100 000 is left to reduce Zuma’s overdraft. Shaik is apparently un–aware that the R1-million is intended for the Development Africa Trust;

  • October 19 2000 -- Shaik confirms in writing his instruction to Malengret the previous day to halt construction on the Nkandla residence. Malengret later testified that Shaik had exclaimed: “Does he [Zuma] think money grows on trees?”;

  • November 2000 -- Vivian Reddy enters the scene, lending Malengret R50 000 to ease his cash-flow problems owing to Zuma’s tardiness in reimbursing him for work completed;

  • December 6 2000 -- Zuma tries to write a cheque for R1-million in favour of the Development Africa Trust, ­apparently unaware that Shaik has moved the funds;

  • December 7 2000 -- Shaik instructs the bank to stop payment of the Zuma cheque, but now presumably realises he needs to repay Development Africa;

  • December 8 2000 -- Shaik faxes to Thetard an application form for a “service provider agreement” involving four tranches of R250 000. The Shaik trial later ruled the agreement was a sham to disguise payments from Thomson. In his covering letter, Shaik writes: “Kindly expedite our arrangement as soon as possible, as matters are becoming extremely urgent with my client”;

  • February 16 2001 -- R249 725 from Thomson is deposited into Shaik’s Kobitech company account;

  • February 28 2001 -- A Kobitech cheque for R250 000 is deposited with Development Africa. Shaik issues three more postdated cheques for R250&nbp;000, but they are eventually stopped. Shaik repays Development Africa only much later;

  • October 9 2001 -- The Scorpions launch search raids in Durban, France and Mauritius;

  • June 7 2002 -- Zuma applies to FNB for a bond for Nkandla, assisted by Reddy;

  • December 12 2002 -- FNB confirms to Reddy that the bond over the property has been registered in an amount of R900 000;

  • January 25 2003 -- The first debit order to service the FNB bond is debited against Reddy’s account for an amount of R12 117;

  • June 2 2005 -- Shaik is convicted of corruption;

  • June 14 2005 -- Mbeki fires Zuma as deputy president;

  • June 20 2005 -- the National Prosecuting Authority announces it will charge Zuma;

  • June 23 2005 -- Mandela ­transfers R1-million to Zuma; and

  • June 25 2005 -- Zuma makes his first bond payment for Nkandla.


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