Following the Nkandla judgment by the South African constitutional court, we present a guide to key events in the debacle as told through various public documents.

View a Nkandla timeline compiled by Mail & Guardian.


Date What happened Resource Quoted in the document
3/12/2009 The presidency pre-empts a story by the Mail & Guardian newspaper on the upgrade of President Jacob Zuma’s private residence at Nkandla, claiming that the state only pays for security expenses and that the rest was for Zuma’s account. Statement “The presidency is fully aware of the need to separate public from private expenditure. The demarcation at Nkandla is very clear, and there can be no reason to confuse the private construction work in the Zuma household and the state facilities that will be constructed outside the parameter.
“We urge the media to leave the family alone to conduct its business, and reject any insinuation that there could be any untoward abuse of state resources by the president or his family.”
4/12/2009 Mail & Guardian publishes a story on a R65 million “splurge” on Nkandla. News story “President Jacob Zuma is expanding his remote family homestead at Nkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal for a whopping price of R65 million—and the taxpayer is footing the largest chunk of the bill.
“The expansion will turn the presidential homestead into a sprawling precinct that will include a police station, helicopter pad, military clinic, visitors’ centre, parking lot with parking for at least 40 vehicles and at least three smaller houses that will serve as staff quarters.”
29/09/2012 A memo leaked to Sunday paper City Press shows that less than 5% of the costs relating to the upgrades to Nkandla were to be paid by the president himself. News report “The purpose of the memorandum, written by Durban regional manager Kenneth Khanyile, was to clarify the ‘apportionment of cost between (the) state’s responsibility and (the) private (cost to the owner)’.
“The scope of the work was divided as follows:
» The ‘public (state’s) portion: R203 079 677.18’; and
» The ‘private (owner’s) portion: R10 651 580.64’.”
21/11/2012 Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos asks the public protector, Thuli Madonsela, to investigate the spending on Nkandla. Letter “I therefore submit this request to the public protector to investigate alleged breaches of the executive members ethics code. I do so as a private citizen as well as a constitutional law professor with 18 years standing with a keen interest in preserving the integrity of the national assembly as well as the office of the president, both constitutional institutions of vital importance for the functioning of our democracy.”
30/11/2012 South Africa’s official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), also asks the public protector to investigate Nkandla. Official complaint “Like all South Africans I [Lindiwe Mazibuko, DA parliamentary leader at the time] have recently read in the media the appalling story of the sums of taxpayers’ money being spent on the private residence of President Jacob Zuma.This is opulence on a grand scale and as an honest, loyal, taxpaying South African I need to understand how this is allowed to happen. Strangely civil society is quiet. This is wrong and highlights the complete disregard which this government has for the citizens of this country. Where is this money coming from and how has it been approved?”
7/11/2013 The security cluster – made up of the ministers of state security, police and defence –  seeks an interdict to prevent the release of the public protector’s report, citing “several security breaches” revealed in the report. The cluster also claims that they were not given adequate opportunity to respond to allegations made against them in the report. Court affidavit “The reading of the provisional report thus far, reveal a plethora of breaches of state security which ought to be identified for the respondent to omit from the provisional report…”
8/11/2013 Madonsela refutes the security cluster’s claims by arguing that she was guided by the documents earlier released to amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). Madonsela’s replying affidavit “… the applicants have omitted to disclose a series of meetings held by me with them and senior officials since April addressing, in particular, the meeting of any security issues regarding the investigation by my office into the Nkandla project. It follows that the applicants – constituting the security cluster in cabinet – have been alive for many months to the imminent need for them to identify any supposed security issues regarding my office’s investigation of the Nkandla project. “
14/11/2013 The security cluster abandons the interdict and agrees to pay the public protector’s legal costs. Public protector media release “This morning a formal notice of withdrawal was received by the public protector, together with a tender to pay the legal costs, including the costs of two counsel. When the court convened at 10:00 this morning, this notice and tender of costs were recorded by the judge.
“The public protector welcomes the abandonment by the ministers of orders they had sought entitling them to vet a report by her. She reaffirms her commitment to complete, in compliance with law, the investigation and final report relating to the Nkandla project.
“In this regard it is also noted with appreciation that the ministers in their replying affidavit filed yesterday ‘have no desire to dictate to [the public protector] when and how to release the provisional report’.”
19/12/2013 The security cluster and the department of public works release a report. It exonerates the president from any wrongdoing and said problems in the procurement chain led to the project’s excessive cost. Report “The conclusion reached by the task team is that… no public funds were used to build the president’s private houses which were in the process of being built and/or completed when the security upgrades project commenced.”
19/03/2014 The public protector releases her “Secure in comfort” report detailing the investigation into the Nkandla upgrades. The report calls for the president to reprimand the ministers who oversaw the project, and recommend that he personally pay a reasonable portion of the funds that were used for non-security related features, as determined by the treasury. Report “It is difficult not to reach the conclusion that a license to loot situation was created by government due to a lack of demand management by the organs of state involved as provided for in the cabinet memorandum, the National Key Points Act, relevant health care and transport regulations as well as national treasury guides and directives on procurement.”
2/04/2014 Zuma sends a response to Madonsela’s Nkandla report – including his evaluation of other reports investigating the Nkandla matter –  to the speaker of parliament, saying he will in due course respond to all of them. Letter “Notwithstanding, there are stark differences both in respect of the findings as well as the remedial action proposed in the two reports. This much is clear from the reports as well as very public pronouncements made by the respective parties. In my experience in government I have not encountered such an anomaly.
“Mr Speaker, I am intent on giving full and proper consideration to all these matters and upon receipt of the [Special Investigating Unit] report will provide parliament with a further final report on the decisive executive interventions which I consider would be appropriate.”
14/08/2014 Zuma writes to parliament responding to all parliamentary probes into Nkandla expenditure, noting only that in terms of the National Key Points Act the police minister must determine the amount due to the state. Report “I deem the following to be appropriate… the minister of police as the designated minister under the National Key Points Act, to report to cabinet on a determination to whether the president is liable for any contribution in respect of the security upgrades having regard to the legislation, past practices, culture and findings contained in the respective reports.”
21/08/2014 The public protector writes to Zuma, requesting compliance with her remedial actions, noting that his reply to parliament did not address her findings. Letter “I am further concerned that the decision you have made regarding the minister of police gives him power he does not have under the law, which is to review my decision taken in pursuit of the powers of administrative scrutiny I am given by section 182 of the constitution and expected by relevant sections of the Executive Members’ Ethics Act, 1998 and the Public Protector Act, 1994. This, Mr President, unintentionally requires him to usurp the review powers of the courts. Section 181(2) of the constitution provides that the public protector is subject only to the constitution and the law.”
12/09/2014 Zuma replies to Madonsela’s letter, disputing the binding effect of her findings. Letter “I must respectfully disagree with your assertion that reports of the public protector ‘are by law not subject to any review or second guessing by a Minister and/or cabinet’ and ‘the findings made and remedial action taken by the Public Protector can only be judicially reviewed and set aside by a court of law’.”
28/5/2015 The police minister releases a report on Nkandla exonerating the president from making any payments, saying that all features on the property were security-related and thus to be paid for by the state. Report
(watch video demonstration)
“The purpose of this report is to inform parliament of the outcomes of the assessment of the security features in Nkandla, the private residence of the president, with specific reference to features that the public protector’s report refers to as ‘non-security’…. The features that required determination on whether or not these are security features or part thereof were:
• The fire pool and/or swimming pool,
• The kraal or animal enclosure (cattle and goats) with culvert and chicken run,
• The visitors centre, and
• The amphitheatre and/or soil retention wall.”
6/8/2015 A special parliamentary ad hoc committee releases a report exonerating Zuma from paying for non-security related features at Nkandla on the basis that they were broadly speaking security features. On 18 August, parliament adopts the report with 198 votes in favour and 93 against. Report “The report contains the following recommendations:
1. The executive ensure that all necessary steps are undertaken to ensure that the safety of the head of state and his family is not compromised.
2. The portfolio committees of public works, police and the joint standing committee on intelligence must ensure the continuous monitoring of corrective actions to be taken by relevant national departments.
3. That the relevant departments and law enforcement authorities ensure the expeditious conclusion of civil, criminal and disciplinary matters.
4. The report of the police  minister be adopted.
5. The report of the minister of public works be adopted.”
31/3/2016 A full bench of the constitutional court rules that the public protector’s remedial actions are binding, that Zuma must pay back a portion of the costs associated with Nkandla and that his actions were inconsistent with the constitution. Court judgment “The national treasury must determine a reasonable percentage of the costs of those measures which ought to be paid personally by the President.
“The national treasury must report back to this court on the outcome of its determination within 60 days of the date of this order.
“The president must personally pay the amount determined by the national treasury… within 45 days of this court’s signification of its approval of the report.”
1/4/2016 Zuma apologises for the “frustration and confusion” caused by the Nkandla saga, undertakes to comply with remedial actions of public protector and admits to acting inconsistently with the constitution. Speech:
video & text
“The constitutional court has ruled that the remedial actions of the public protector are binding, and that anyone wishing to challenge the remedial action can only do so through a review by a court of law.
“The court has also ruled that the remedial actions with regards to 6 features of the Nkandla project must be carried out.
“This entails the national treasury establishing a reasonable proportion of the reasonable costs of each item to be paid by the president.
“I respect the judgment and will abide by it.”

Researched by Vinayak Bhardwaj – 8/04/2016