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Sun Oct 26 00:52:43 SAST 2014

Zuma's stately home built on a shaky foundation

The Times Editorial | 16 November, 2012 00:17

The Times Editorial: A visibly upset President Jacob Zuma told MPs yesterday that he felt ''aggrieved'' by media reports that the government had paid more than R200-million to upgrade his palatial Nkandla estate in KwaZulu-Natal.

Insisting that he had paid for the extensions to the sprawling, multi-dwelling property himself, Zuma said: "It has not been built by government. All the buildings and every room we use in that residence were built by ourselves as family and not by [the] government."

Zuma said the government had paid only for security features on his estate, including fencing, bullet-proof windows and a bunker, and that he had been advised that these were necessary to meet the requirements of the National Key Points Act.

The government had also built several houses outside the complex for officials charged with protecting his home.

Finally, Zuma ''took exception'' to opposition leader Helen Zille's recent attempt ''to photograph my house'' and make a ''laughing stock of my family''.

He might genuinely feel that he has been given a raw deal by the press, but Nkandlagate is not going to go away until he and the Department of Public Works play open cards.

These are some of the questions they need to answer as a matter of urgency:

How much, exactly, did taxpayers pay for the security upgrading at Nkandla? Is the figure of R250-million being bandied about correct?

Why, exactly, does the president of a democracy need a bunker in an already heavily protected private estate?

What was the real reason for the reported construction of 31 buildings on and around the property, some of them costing R8-million?

Why was a fortune - R1.5-million, according to DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko - spent on air-conditioning?

Our president needs to be protected, and his privacy, at home, should be respected. But the public has every right to call him to account for every cent of public money he spends.

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