President Zuma ‘benefited unduly’ from €16m security upgrades to home

Investigation paints damning picture weeks before South African general election

Jacob Zuma: the report recommended that he pay a percentage of the upgrade work overseen by the department of works. Photograph: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg

Jacob Zuma: the report recommended that he pay a percentage of the upgrade work overseen by the department of works. Photograph: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg

Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 01:00

The long-awaited investigation into the cost of taxpayer-funded security upgrades to South African president Jacob Zuma’s private home has painted a damning picture of financial abuse just weeks before the country’s general election.

The report, Secure in Comfort , released yesterday by public protector Thuli Madonsela, states Mr Zuma and his family “benefited unduly” from the 246 million rand (€16.4 million) state-funded security improvements to his rural Nklandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal province.

As well as genuine security features such as accommodation for security personnel, fencing and a helicopter pad, the upgrades also included non-security installations including a visitors’ centre, swimming pool, cattle enclosure, chicken run and amphitheatre, stated the investigators.

The report prompted the opposition Democratic Alliance to say it wants to recall parliament to initiate impeachment proceedings against Mr Zuma for “this flagrant abuse of public money.”

Other parties have called on Mr Zuma to stand down as the country’s president.

The ruling African National Congress has previously suggested the report, a draft of which was leaked last year, was a politically motivated document designed to affect the party’s election prospects. It is holding a press conference on the report’s contents today.

The ANC-led government admitted that instances of maladministration had taken place between government officials and service providers involved in the project, but it insisted Mr Zuma had been exonerated by the report.


Recommendation
Ms Madonsela recommended that Mr Zuma, who has claimed he had little to do with the project as it was instigated by government over concerns about his home’s security, must pay a percentage of the upgrade work overseen by the department of works.

According to reports, in August 2010 the project’s cost estimation was 145 million rand (€9.7 million), but by the time the public protector – the state’s anti-corruption watchdog – had concluded her investigation last year, it had risen to 215 million rand (€14.4 million). It is estimated the total cost of the project will reach 246 million rand.

The escalation in costs was put down to sub-contractors, including the project architect, charging excessive prices for their services and materials, and the situation was allowed to get out of control because of poor management by government officials.


Architect
Mr Zuma’s architect, Minenhle Makhanya, who acted as a go-between for the president and government officials, made 16.5 million rand (€1.1 million) from the project.

“Makhanya was often asked to design something more economic and he will come back with something more expensive and even luxurious,” the report said.

It also found that Mr Makhanya was brought into the project in 2009 without the job going to tender, which did not satisfy legal requirements.

Mr Zuma had also been accused by opposition parties of knowingly deceiving parliament and breaching the code of ethics during a debate on the topic in 2010, but Ms Madonsela found this was not the case.

The report was also revealed that public works funds for inner-city regeneration projects were diverted to carry out the upgrades, and at no point did Mr Zuma express misgivings at the opulence of the project.