Nkandla architect faces big bill, crumbling marriage

Ingrid Oellermann and Jeff Wicks, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - President Jacob Zuma's architect Minenhle Makhanya is lying low, with his marriage on the rocks and facing a R155.3m bill for Nkandla’s R246m “security upgrade”.

The president’s enigmatic architect is in a world of trouble as the Special Investigating Unit swoops in and as his wife told The Witness of her woes.

Court papers filed by the Special Investigating Unit and obtained by The Witness on Tuesday lay the blame for the Nkandla debacle firmly in Makhanya’s lap.

The anti-graft investigators want him to pay back R155.3m to taxpayers.

Among the big-ticket Nkandla bills the SIU is demanding he pay for are nearly R4m for VIP parking and the infamous “fire pool”, R4m for a visitors’ lounge and R5m for basement parking.

The department of public works is also cited as a defendant in the case for allegedly appointing him illegally.


His wife Lungi said on Tuesday their relationship had become estranged and she was not in contact with him.

“To be honest, I have no idea where he is and I haven’t spoken to him in days... He doesn’t live here anymore,” she said, referring to the Pinetown property registered to him.

“He lives in Richmond now and we never see him. If his phone is off I don’t know what to suggest,” she said.

Makhanya could not be reached for comment on Tuesday and declined to comment on Monday.

But a source close to the family, who requested anonymity, said that Makhanya’s first marriage was suffering because of “Nkandlagate” and a dispute over a second wife.

“She [Lungi] had been called repeatedly by journalists who asked about her husband transferring money into separate accounts. She even stopped working for him. Maybe it was to distance herself from everything that is happening,” the source added.

'Unlawful, wrongful and negligent conduct'

Meanwhile, the papers filed in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court allege public works lost R155.3m through Makhanya’s “unlawful, wrongful and negligent conduct”.

The move against Makhanya also backs Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's depiction of his central role in the scandal in her earlier inquiry.

The SIU’s court papers paint a picture of a project riddled with illegal appointments, unbridled spending and bloat as building costs sky-rocketed. Even the sizes of buildings ballooned.

The SIU said Makhanya’s appointment was allegedly made at the request of Jean Rindel, the department of public works’ project manager for Nkandla. The department’s director-general had also made the request.

The SIU said no competitive bidding or open tender process was followed and he was appointed in spite of him not being on the department’s list of registered suppliers.

Makhanya is accused of authorising improvements and installing security measures “in excess of and far beyond those determined by the SAPS and SANDF”.

He also allegedly “over-designed” the scope of works without authorisation; approved payments to service providers far above market rates, authorised payments for work that wasn’t even done, and failed to obtain a breakdown of the work charged for by contractors.

He allegedly also overcharged the department for his own professional fees and those of others.

Public works did not respond when asked for comment.