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Zuma defends his Nkandla 'family home' in Parliament

Phillip De Wet

President Jacob Zuma managed to duck an impromptu debate on his fitness to hold office, but came out fighting on his Nkandla residence.

President Jacob Zuma. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Investigators from the likes of the public protector's office should be "screened" before they are allowed to delve into his Nkandla residence, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday, because of its status as a national key point.

Not that he has any concerns about his conduct in the construction of what one member of Parliament referred to as a "pseudo-monarchic seat".

"My residence in Nkandla has been paid for by the Zuma family. All the buildings and every room we use in that residence, was built by ourselves as family and not by government," Zuma told the legislature during two hours of question time on Thursday.

"I have never asked government to build a home for me, and it has not done so. Government did not build a home for me."

He said he was still paying off the bond for the five family buildings in the compound.

Zuma said he takes exception to accusations that government money was spent for his benefit.

"It is unfair, and I don't want to use harsher words because you believe that people like me can't build a home," he said, apparently referring to Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, who had asked whether construction at the compound will be halted while the public protector investigates the spending.

'The country is stable'
Zuma confirmed the existence of a bunker in the compound, and said some but not all windows in houses had been fitted with bullet-proof glass. But accommodation for police and army units built on the site did not fall within his ambit, he said, and he did not know how much money had been spent on such construction.

He described the DA's recent abortive attempt to inspect the site as a "trip to come and photograph my house and make a laughing stock of my family".

But though they did not get the answers they were looking for on Nkandla, opposition parties managed to slip the issue of a no-confidence vote against him onto the agenda.

The country is unstable, Mazibuko put it to Zuma during a mini-debate on the recent downgrades in South Africa's credit ratings. So why should he keep his job?

But what unrest South Africa is experiencing can also be found in protests in Western Europe, Zuma said, adding: "This country is stable. Absolutely."

No lack of leadership
And considering that Zuma is so proud of the internal democracy of the ANC, asked the Inkhata Freedom Party's Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, what is the difference between suppressing democracy and preventing a debate on a motion of no confidence?

"I am not a member of Parliament," Zuma said, and advised him to discuss the matter with his colleagues in the House.

The ANC in Parliament on Thursday said it would block any attempt to debate the Zuma no-confidence motion put forward by a remarkable temporary alliance of opposition parties.

Zuma used a similar deflection when challenged by Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota on what he described as a lack of leadership, asking the president why he was so quiet on issues including agricultural unrest in the Western Cape. Leadership should come from Parliament, Zuma said, and to say leadership was lacking is "totally out of order".


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