Two new road networks worth R582-million have been built in President Jacob Zuma's village in KwaNxamalala, Nkandla - thanks mostly to state funds.
The Mercury reported on Wednesday the road linking the village to Kranskop, the P15, is a 32.4km stretch and was built for R290-million, while the road from Eshowe linking it with the village and Nkandla is 54.4km long and cost R292-million.
KwaZulu-Natal's transport minister Willies Mchunu also opened two pedestrian bridges across the Nsuze and Mposa rivers in the greater KwaNxamalala area. These would link villages to schools and cost R4.5-million.
According to the Mercury, Mchunu said the projects were considered before Zuma became president.
"In fact former president Thabo Mbeki identified Nkandla and Msinga as priority areas needing development. This has nothing to do with President Zuma."
The unveiling takes place amid controversy around Zuma's R240-million upgrade of his Nkandla homestead – 90% of this bill will be footed by state money.
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, whose department is responsible for the renovations, last week defended the upgrade, arguing that the Ministerial Handbook on the spending of public funds does not apply to the president.
Calls for debate
Zuma has access to presidential residences in Durban, Pretoria and Cape Town.
The Nkandla upgrade apparently includes features such as a helipad, waterborne sewerage works, roads, a clinic, and accommodation for security staff, the Mercury reported.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela confirmed this week her office was probing the matter, and the Democratic Alliance has called for a parliamentary debate.
The two roads link the presidential village to the Zululand towns of Eshowe, Nkandla and Kranskop.
But DA member of the provincial legislature and transport spokesperson Radley Keys said he had raised questions with KwaZulu-Natal transport portfolio committee members on why Nkandla seemed to be getting a lot of attention.
"There are vast areas of the country that do not even have gravel roads. I said clearly there is an agenda here and it could be that it is because Nkandla is home to the president. Areas such as uMkhanyakude, Dumbe and Nquthu [in Zululand] and others have roads in a terrible state."
"The building of the roads past the president's home led one to conclude that it was at the expense of development in other areas," the paper quoted him as saying.
Mchunu said the two roads had been prioritised for development a long time ago – one in 2003 and the other in 2006.
"Zuma was not president in 2003 and 2006. In fact former president Mbeki identified Nkandla and Msinga as priority areas needing development. This has nothing to do with President Zuma."
Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Peterson denied her department gave R800-million to the Nkandla "Zumaville" development project.
She was responding to questions from MPs in the portfolio committee meeting on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, when the department presented its annual report.
"There is no R800-million. It fictitious ..." she said. – Additional reporting by Sapa