Jacob Zuma refuses to reimburse taxpayers for upgrade to home
South African president claims he did not ask for €16.8m makeover
South Africa president Jacob Zuma: €16.8 million was spent on renovating his residence near Nkandla village in KwaZulu-Natal province. Photograph: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg
South African president Jacob Zuma has questioned why he should reimburse taxpayers for the multimillion-euro upgrade to his rural home, which included numerous non-security-related benefits, when he did not ask for the makeover to the residence.
The comments he made on Sunday were his first on the subject since public protector Thuli Madonsela released a damning investigation 11 days ago into the 246 million rand (€16.8 million) spent on renovating the residence near Nkandla village in KwaZulu-Natal province.
In her report, she said the security upgrades were excessive and benefited the president’s family unduly. She recommended Mr Zuma repay the costs of the non-security-related improvements, which include the swimming pool, chicken run, cattle enclosure and visitors’ centre.
However, while electioneering in Gugulethu township just outside Cape Town in the Western Cape province ahead of the May 7th general election, Mr Zuma tried to deflect the notion of accountability away from himself when questioned by the media about the report’s recommendations.
Rather than accept any responsibility for the work, the cost of which was hugely inflated by contractors, Mr Zuma appeared to shift the blame to government officials.
“They [the government officials] did this without telling me,” he was shown saying on ANN7, a newly-launched television network, “So why should I pay for something I did not ask for?”
Mr Zuma was talking off the cuff while going door-to-door, and an official response to parliament on the report is expected soon.
The government said last week the African National Congress leader, running for a second term as South Africa’s president, would address the matter within 14 days of the report’s publication.
Used own architect
The ANC has maintained senior government officials implicated in the scandal should be held accountable for the overspend. However, opposition parties are also laying the blame at the president’s door, saying it is inconceivable he was unaware when his own architect was involved.
The Democratic Alliance has set in motion efforts to have Mr Zuma impeached, and it has launched a criminal corruption case against him.