Anger at Zuma's €18.7m home upgrade
FIRST IT was “Zumaville”, the €200 million proposed town to be built at public expense in South African president Jacob Zuma’s home village of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal, that caused public consternation.
Now plans for the president’s house – an €18.7 million upgrade to include lavish accommodation and features such as a helipad – are causing a similar uproar.
The opposition is outraged and there are calls for a corruption inquiry to be widened.
It has emerged that 95 per cent of the upgrade, which was previously expected to be financed by Mr Zuma himself, will in fact be paid for by South African taxpayers.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party has called for public protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate.
“Reports that the department of public works will be spending millions on Zuma’s private homestead is a serious abuse of taxpayers’ money by a department which is failing in almost every other key responsibility,” DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said in a statement.
On Sunday, City Press newspaper said the 203 million rand (€18.7 million) budget to revamp Mr Zuma’s sprawling homestead was approved by the public works department in March 2011.
Earlier this year it was reported that Mr Zuma would cover most of the costs of renovating his homestead, but the newspaper said documentation in its possession revealed he was going to put only about 10 million rand, or 5 per cent of the cost, towards it.
Plans for the renovations are said to show it will contain 10 air-conditioned rooms, underground living quarters, a clinic for Mr Zuma and his family, 10 houses for security personnel, houses for air-force and police units, a helipad, underground parking, playgrounds and visitor centres.
The revelations have prompted South African public works minister Thulas Nxesi to launch an investigation into how the newspaper got its hands on the leaked documents that outline the budget.
Speaking yesterday for the first time since Sunday’s exposé, Mr Nxesi defended the expenditure on the project, saying it was in line with the ministerial handbook, but he refused to confirm the amount of state funds allocated to it.
“The merely unlawful possession of a top-secret [document] is a breach of the laws . . . This therefore calls for an investigation to be launched to determine how the City Press illegally ended up in possession of this document,” he said.
The president’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, told reporters yesterday that Mr Zuma’s homestead needed an upgrade to house staff and visiting guests as they could not be asked to share the president’s main residence in the complex.
“What do you do when President Obama or an African head of state visits him? You can’t send them to a hotel,” he was quoted as saying.
He added that in principle South African presidents should not be expected to pay accommodation costs for security staff and guests out of their own pockets.
However, the DA was critical of the expenditure because the residence was Mr Zuma’s private home, and once he left office it would no longer be available to the state.
In August it emerged that Mr Zuma’s home village of Nklandla, a poor rural settlement, was earmarked for a €200 million makeover at taxpayers’ expense.