President Jacob Zuma questioned the more than R200-million spent on upgrades at his private Nkandla home and said security upgrades could not have cost more than R50-million or R70-million. The president disputed the R200-million price tag in an exclusive interview with television news channel eNCA, airing on Sunday at 8pm.
"I think there's a very specific figure on the upgrades. I think it's about R50-million or something or 50 plus or 70 [-million]," said Zuma.
Though Zuma has always insisted he did not benefit illegally from state funds, it's the first time he disputed the amount spent on his private home. None of the teams investigating the use of public funds, the inter-ministerial task team and the office of the public protector, have so far raised questions about the more than R200-million price tag.
According to the ministerial task team report, 24% of the R208-million was spent on security costs for Zuma's private residence, 52% on infrastructure costs related to the "government hub" and the other 24% on consultancy fees. A leaked provisional report by the public protector found that Zuma derived "substantial" personal benefit from works that exceeded security needs at his homestead and must repay the state.
Public protector's final report
While the public still awaits the release of the public protector's final report, the inter-ministerial task team report exonerated Zuma, pointing a finger at officials of government departments involved in planning and carrying out the upgrades. The ministerial task team report said Zuma did not ask for the security upgrades and no public funds were used for his private residence.
The report however confirmed that public funds were used for the building of a tuck shop, chicken run, cattle kraal and a pool, called a "fire pool" because it is said to be a fire-fighting device. Public funds were used to foot the bill for the tuck shop, chicken run and kraal, according to the ministerial task team.
Zuma disputes the R200-millon price tag just a day after deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe told a meeting of South African National Editors' Forum that poor communication about the use of state funds in Nkandla has resulted in some "negatives". Communication on the matter could have been handled better, he said.
"It [the Nkandla matter] has taken its toll on not only the image of the presidency, but the government and the whole country … it has created doubt about our commitment to root out corruption," Motlanthe said.
Nkandla is expected to dominate election campaigns of both the ruling ANC and opposition parties. While the ANC will seek to distance its president from any decisions taken about upgrades at his private homestead, opposition parties are likely to use the controversy to discredit the ANC and its candidate.