Why Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla will give architects a bad name.

NkandlaWhy Nkandla will give architects a bad name.
During the past few weeks after the release of Thuli Madonsela’s report on South African president, Jacob Zuma’s, unduly benefit through securityupgrades at his home, the name of his architect has become synonymous with the scandal.

This architect Minenhle Makhanya has single handed caused damaged to my profession. The things that are coming to light in articles like the following http://mg.co.za/article/2014-03-27-nkandla-zuma-got-what-zuma-wanted makes me wonder whether the architect is registered with the same regulating bodies that I am, his conduct is certainly disconcerting.
One can only assume that if he is practicing as an architect he is registered with SACAP, the council for the architectural profession and as such is regulated by Act 44 of 2000 which states in section 41 that :

A person convicted of an offence in terms of section 18(2), may be liable to a fine
equal to double the remuneration received by him or her for work done in contravention
of section 18(2) or to a fine equal to the fine calculated according to the ratio determined
for three years imprisonment in terms of the Adjustment of Fines Act, 1991

I could however not find what the amount of such a fine would be but it is indeed public knowledge by now that the fees charged by the architect on the Nkandla project were in excess of R16 million, I think a fine to the value of double the remuneration would ruin the architects career in this case.

The issue of fees in the Nkandla scandal is an area that requires a bit of further explanation.

The fees that architects are ‘supposed’ to charge is regulated by SACAP (South African Council for the Architecture Profession) which in turn is called into existence by government. A proposed fee structure is published in the government gazette of which the latest one is Board notice 194 of 2011 (available at http://www.sacapsa.com/sacap/action/media/downloadFile?media_fileid=722).
And this is where it gets sticky, if government regulates the fees they are not at liberty to negotiate them down, are they? This is why architects compete furiously for government work, it comes however with the schlep of having to deal with slow payment and incompetent personnel in government.

I believe that the architects fees could have been calculated correctly.

Board notice 194 of 2011 states that a project like Nkandla, where we know that the project cost in excess of R200 million is calculated as follows:

R807 000 + 5.75% of the cost of building work (R11,5 million).

We come to a total of R12.3million very quickly. Added to this the architect can charge more for the fact that he is dealing with existing structures, that special design work such as security system design gets charged over and above the base fee, and suddenly R16 million isn’t so farfetched.

What is disconcerting is that it appears as if the architect was working for Jacob Zuma and not for the Department of Public Works (referred to as DPW hereafter). In an instance like this the end-user (Zuma) of the built work is NOT the client but the DPW is. As the DPW was paying for it they are in fact the client, they did the original scoping report and found that the security of the president was lacking. The DPW have their own set of strict guidelines that the professional team need to adhere to and as such are almost a power unto themselves, to the extent that buildings commissioned by the DPW rarely gain local municipal approval as the DPW operates at government level that dictates to local municipalities.

The fact that Zuma had a puppet master in the form of Minenhle Makhanya dictating to government departments what the end user wanted is a sad failure of the ANC government to control their own finances.

I would like to reiterate that Minenhle Makhanya has in my opinion failed architecture as a profession as it is an architect’s duty to act ethically at all times.

A voluntary association that all architects are encouraged to join, and I believe Minenhle Makhanya would be a member of, states in their code of ethics:

PRINCIPLE 1

Members have a responsibility to serve and promote the public interest in a professional and responsible manner

PRINCIPLE 2

Members have a responsibility to serve their clients and employers in a manner that will engender confidence and respect for the profession

AND FURTHERMORE:

If, in the course of their work on a project, become aware of a decision taken by their
employer or client which violates any law or regulation which will, in the Member’s
judgement of the finished project, materially affect adversely the safety and health of the
public,

Advise their employer or client against the decision,

Refuse to consent to the decision, and

Unless the Member is able to cause the matter to be satisfactorily resolved by other means, report the decision to the local building inspector or other public official charged with the enforcement of the applicable laws and regulations

In light of the above mentioned, I think that the Nkandla report and blame that is currently laid before the president is one thing, the blame on the architect should not be swept under the carpet.

It would be sad if no steps were taken against the architect if it is found that the has violated any of the laws and codes that he is subjected to.

I believe in general that architects strive to act ethically and lawful but in this case we may have found an exception. One thing is for certain, this will affect the way the public view architects in South Africa forever.