Six bizarre explanations for the Nkandla “fire pool”

The words ‘fire pool’ have become synonymous with South Africa and its politics thanks to President Jacob Zuma and his Nkandla homestead security upgrades. Several individuals found interesting ways to justify the construction of the R3.9-million swimming pool and defend the president.

  1. “Zuma didn’t ask for a swimming pool, he is busy running the country.”
    – ANC youth league national co-ordinator Magasela Mzobe.

    At the time, Mzobe believed that there were more important things for the president should be concerned about – a fire pool was not one of them.

  2. “The security and fire practitioners found that it has been established the fire fighting capability at the residence of the president in Nkandla is not up to the required standards as per the national fire regulations. This is caused by, among others, the low water pressure from the main water supply as well as insufficient and/or inadequate fire fighting equipment.”
    – Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko

    Nhleko stuck to his guns that the Nkandla upgrades were solely for security reasons. He released a report that stipulated that the upgrades were necessary and that the cost was not R246-million as indicated by the Public Protector’s report.

  3. “It [the Nkandla pool] is a water resource that can be utilised to fight fires.”
    – Chairman of the parliamentary committee into Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s report Cedric Frolick

    When Frolick was asked about the infamous firepool, he initially said that it was a “recreational facility” and then quickly backtracked to say that it is indeed a ‘fire pool’.

  4. “There are no fire extinguishers or fire brigades [in rural areas], [the] best we know is to take a bucket, dip it in water and throw it on the fire”
    – Former police commissioner Riah Phiyega

    Jumping on the bandwagon on Nkandla ‘fire pool’ defenders, Phiyega said that it was a necessary security feature. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe then said Phiyega lied for describing the swimming pool as a ‘fire pool’ and there action should be taken against her for that.


  5. “One of the hazards raised by the assessment was the possible outbreak of fire as most of the structures have thatched roofs and are close to each other. In order to eliminate or minimise potential risks and due to water supply which was erratic, a fire pool was decided on as the most viable option for firefighting.”
    – Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi
  6. “The fire pool should be converted into a swimming pool to be used by the children of the village.”
    – Deputy Minister of Social Development Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu.

    The Deputy Minister of Public Works, Bogopane-Zulu said that President Zuma supported her idea of turning the pool into a community pool for Nkandla residents.

In the Nkandla report, Thuli Madonsela refers to the infamous “fire pool” as just a swimming pool – much like how Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng refered to it in the Constitutional Court judgement earlier this morning.

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Pontsho Pilane
Pontsho Pilane is an award-winning journalist interested in health, gender, race and how they intersect. She holds three degrees in media studies and journalism from Wits University

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