President Jacob Zuma was adamant that the ANC would get an overwhelming majority during this week’s general elections, despite criticism against the ruling party’s poor service delivery record and the Nkandla scandal, which cost taxpayers well over R240-million.
He dismissed suggestions that he has become a liability for the ruling party, saying the enthusiasm showed by ordinary people when he crisscrossed the country during the campaign period was a reflection that he was still popular among ordinary people.
Zuma, who was addressing journalists during an ANC breakfast on Monday, again defended himself after public protector Thuli Madonsela found he and his family benefited unduly from the R246-million security upgrades at his Nkandla homestead. Contrary to claims by ministers within the security cluster that the money was used for security upgrades, Madonsela found that the swimming pool, cattle kraal, chicken run, amphitheater and paving, could not be regarded as part of the security upgrades at Zuma’s house.
She recommended that he pay back part of the money to the state.
Opposition parties have capitalised on the Nkandla scandal in their campaigns for this year’s elections.
While some of the ANC’s own internal surveys showed that some people have said they would not vote for the ANC because of the Nkandla scandal, Zuma on Monday said he was not worried about the likely negative impact the scandal would have on the ANC’s performance.
“I am not worried about Nkandla. Not a single person said to us during the campaign they were worried about Nkandla. People are not worried about that. They don’t think it’s an issue that will affect how they vote. This is an issue raised by bright people [those who think they know better]. It has not worked. [Nkandla] is just a homestead of a man called Zuma who happened to become president. From when I became deputy president, I was told I couldn’t be in a car without bullet proof. It’s a benefit. Must I pay for those benefits? Why? When I go the United States, I use [state] aircraft. Must I pay for that? Why is it that the law has to change when we deal with Zuma,” he asked.
He said it was unfair to suggest he should be held accountable for the exorbitant spending at Nkandla.
“I can’t be responsible for construction [at my house, and] that so-and-so inflated prices. How was I expected to see that? Where would I be when that happened? I am running the country.”
Zuma said both the public protector’s report and the inter-ministerial task team, cleared him of any corruption.
“Both reports don’t say the president is corrupt or used the R246-million for himself. The huge some [of the R246-million] went to buildings outside my premises. But when you [the media] show the pictures of the house, you mislead the citizen as if the money went there. You don’t even use an arrow to show which building belongs to the state and those that belongs to me. The clinic is shown on the picture as part of my house, 90% of what is shown on the pictures I paid bond for it.”
“It [the criticism] is not fair to Zuma and his family. I am a citizen. I also need protection. If the public protector is there to protect the public, I need to be protected as well. There is no finding of misconduct. The finding is no, there is nothing of such nature. The public protector’s report does not say Zuma deliberately abused public funds. She acknowledged there was a need for security upgrade [at my house]. She says: ‘Zuma unduly benefited [from the security upgrades] but he had nothing to do with it’,” said Zuma.
He said, given the past experience where his house was burnt down and criminals broke in to rape his wife, security upgrades at his house were necessary.