Zuma’s rights ‘violated’ over Nkandla scrutiny

South Africa’s police ministry said President Jacob Zuma is not liable for the misuse of state funds to upgrade his private home, contradicting the graft ombudsman’s recommendation that he should repay some of the money.

A police ministry report submitted to lawmakers on Thursday absolved Zuma of responsibility and blamed inflated contracts and government officials for the high costs of renovations. All upgrades to Zuma’s home were security upgrades, including a swimming pool, cattle enclosure and chicken run, it said.

“Never in South Africa’s history or anywhere else in the world has a president’s private residence been subjected to such intense public scrutiny,” according to the report. “Therefore, the president and his family’s rights have been violated. The state president is not liable to pay anything.”

Zuma (72) has faced a public backlash since public protector Thuli Madonsela said in a report in March last year that he unfairly benefited from the use of state funds to renovate his home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. Zuma appointed Police Minister Nathi Nhleko to probe whether he should repay any of the R215-million that was spent.

Zuma has repeatedly denied ordering the security makeover. A panel of ANC lawmakers cleared him of wrongdoing.

‘No case’

“There is no case against me on Nkandla, no pending arrest,” Zuma told lawmakers on March 11. “I don’t know why the issue of ‘pay back the money'” is being raised, he said.

The Democratic Alliance estimates Zuma owes taxpayers at least R52.9-million, while the EFF, the second-largest opposition group, says he should repay R206-million.

A former intelligence operative, Zuma has also been alleged to have taken bribes from arms dealers. He denied any wrongdoing, and prosecutors dropped charges against him a few weeks before he became president in 2009. He secured a second five-year term in May last year after the ANC won its fifth straight election.

Pool is critical

The swimming pool at Nkandla was needed to ensure the security of the president as it served a critical fire-fighting purpose, Nhleko said on Thursday.

Reading from the report, Nhleko said an exercise conducted by the Nkandla fire and rescue service in February this year showed they were not equipped properly to fight fires at the homestead which consists of various thatch roof buildings.

The exercise showed using water from the swimming pool instead of fire hydrants was more effective to fighting fires.

“During the demonstration, the chief fire officer for Umhlathuze established that the suction pump could draw sufficient water from the pool at the required speed, whereas the fire hydrant’s lack of necessary water pressure was evident.”

Nhleko showed journalists a video of the exercise – complete with dramatic music playing in the background, and a firefighter standing next to Nkandla pool – explaining why the pool was a better source of water than fire hydrants. – Bloomberg News and African News Agency

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Schools: Confusion rather than clarity and confidence reign

The way in which Angie Motshekga has handled the reopening of schools has caused many people to lose confidence in her

The backlogs, denials and future of testing Covid-19

The National Health Laboratory Services finally admitted to a bottleneck last week, after denying there were any issues since April. According to the service, the backlog of 80 000 tests started in the first week of May

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday