Pretoria: The developments underway in President Jacob Zuma’s hometown of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal are by no means unique, says Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi.
Similar security arrangements would have taken place at the homes of former presidents, although possibly on a different scale, depending on the security analysis, he pointed out.
It was unfortunate and a coincidence that these developments took place at a time when the President was carrying out a major upgrade to his residence at his own expense, the minister added.
Addressing the media in Pretoria on Friday, Nxesi noted that the security project in Nkandla had raised enormous public interest.
“Although it is not the standard practice to comment on security arrangements of dignitaries, it is now clear that certain parties will continue to make allegations about this project unless these serious misconceptions are refuted with facts,” he said.
The minister acknowledged that discussing some of these security arrangements may endanger security, but government had decided to give “as many details as the maintenance of sound security arrangements would allow”.
He explained that when Zuma was elected as President, security had to be beefed up at places considered high security risks.
A team comprising representatives from the SA Police Service, Defence and State Security reviewed the circumstances surrounding the President, addressed shortcomings and plans were drawn up and implemented.
“As part of this process, new capacity was requested for Nkandla, in and surrounding the private residence of President Zuma. The approach to providing security at the Nkandla high risk area was based on a frank assessment of the security threat there and the requirements of the security forces,” said Nxesi.
The security threat analysis pointed to a deep rural area in which there were basically no services such as those in urban areas took for granted, he said.
These included an erratic supply of water; no waterborne sewerage; hazardous access by air; transport difficulties as a result of the steep terrain and mountains; the high threat of fire; the need for security forces to be accommodated locally and the need to improve the roads.
It was also noted that the venue was the location for functions, including meetings of heads of state, Cabinet ministers, other high risk dignitaries, local communities, provincial and national government, as well foreign and local dignitaries.
Nxesi said it was decided that the President’s private residence was a private resident, which had been declared as a National Key Point.
It was also decided that there needed to be a clear separation of expenses that were for the private account of the “principal” and those that arose from the state’s duty to provide appropriate security.
Security forces and other government employees needed to be accommodated locally as basing them in the nearest town of Eshowe was impractical.
In addition, proper helipads where needed for landing instead of continuing to land in the veld; proper health care provision needed to be provided on site; and military and police assets needed to be properly safeguarded.
Also, “any new capacity should benefit the local community in the short term to the extent possible and then maximised when the principal was no longer President — for example, the clinic and security compound”, the minister added.
Measures needed to satisfy the requirement of the security forces included reinforcing barriers; erecting high security fences, fire fighting capability for the helipads, road construction around the precinct; building of a security compound, security systems for the entire area and the provision of a clinic.
“…Although there were a few hiccups, as would be expected with these high security projects and the difficult local circumstances, most of the state requirements have been met. We have taken special care to allocate expenses to private and public entities, as appropriate,” said Nxesi.