Taxpayer cost of work to Zuma's house detailed in leaks


Despite his vehement claims to the contrary, documentary evidence indicates that South African president Jacob Zuma knew the extent to which taxpayers’ money was being spent to upgrade his rural residence, it was reported yesterday.

Mr Zuma’s residence at Nkandla in ZwaZulu-Natal province has come under increasing scrutiny since early October when it was revealed the public works department had earmarked over R240 million (€21 million) for “security” upgrades to his complex. Since then accusations the public purse was being abused to pay for more than just the new security measures have been levelled by opposition parties and media organisations.

The president’s critics have called for an inquiry as they suspect renovations at the homestead – which include air-conditioned, underground living quarters, a helipad and a medical clinic – are being paid for by the state.

Last week, during a heated parliamentary debate, the president maintained “all the buildings” in the complex were built by his family and that he was unaware of the scale of the security project.

He went on to say he was “aggrieved” by media reports saying the government had paid.

“On TV, they showed the house that I paid for. And they lie that it has been built by government,” he insisted. However, yesterday the Mail and Guardian reported it had documents that showed in 2010 Mr Zuma was provided with “exhaustive details” regarding the progress being made on the “security project” at his Nkandla home.

Also clear from the leaked information received on Thursday, it said, was the large contributions expected from the department of public works for the completion of buildings.

The newspaper added the documents showed the taxpayer money was spent on buildings for the personal use of the Zuma family, and not just security infrastructure.

In addition, the paperwork revealed Mr Zuma’s supposed private contribution to cover the cost of the project dropped by half from over R20 million to just over R10 million, while the cost of the project more than doubled.

The most damning of the documents in its possession, it said, was a letter addressed to Mr Zuma from the then public works minister, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde.

In it she writes, “I have taken the view that it is prudent to update you on the progress of the above prestige project”, before going on to outline completion dates for 17 individual components of the project.