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Sun Nov 23 02:58:48 SAST 2014

Zuma: I pay my way

THABO MOKONE | 16 November, 2012 00:14
President Jacob Zuma's home in KwaNxamalala, Nkandla. File photo.
Image by: Foto24/Cornel van Heerden / Gallo Images

An emotional President Jacob Zuma mounted a spirited defence of the controversial renovations to his Nkandla homestead yesterday, berating politicians and insisting that he had paid for the refurbishment from his own pocket.

He said the state had footed the bill only for a security upgrade.

A visibly irritated Zuma said he "took exception" to suggestions that the government had built him and his family a home.

He had started building his Nkandla residential complex after his original family home was gutted by fire at the height of the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal, he said.

"A wrong impression is being given that the government has built a home for me. It is not true; people are speaking without knowing and therefore saying I've spent so much money of the government. I have never done so . It is unfair and I don't want to use harsher words, because you believe that people like me can't build a home," said Zuma.

DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, who had posed the parliamentary question about Nkandla, dismissed Zuma's emotional outburst, saying he was "playing the victim" instead of coming clean on the actual costs.

As Zuma tried to quell the controversy around his Nkandla home, it emerged that parliament might be taken to court by opposition parties aggrieved at the ANC preventing a debate in the National Assembly on their proposal for a vote on a motion of no confidence in the president.

Zuma told MPs that when he became president he had been advised that his home needed to be secured, at government cost, in line with the requirements of the National Key Points Act. The security upgrade included installation of bullet-proof windows and lifts linking the house to an underground bunker.

He said the government had also built several houses outside the family's quarters to accommodate security personnel.

Zuma said he was deeply hurt by accusations that the renovations to his home amounted to corruption.

"What is shown is my house that I've paid for and there's a lie that it has been built by the government. . my name is being used wrongly, my family is being undermined, even by the very honourable members who don't ask what actually happened. I feel very aggrieved, I must tell you for the first time."

Zuma took issue with DA leader Helen Zille for trying to inspect his Nkandla homestead two weeks ago, saying the Western Cape premier had sought to make "a laughing stock" of his family.

"You then have leaders of political parties, who don't know whether they are provincial or national, taking trips to . photograph my house and making a laughing stock of my family. I take exception to this."

He said he did not know how the amount reportedly spent on Nkandla had been arrived at.

"I don't know where this amount of money went to .... [it] is being piled on me as having used R200-million and therefore [that] I am very corrupt. I take exception [to that] because whoever is going to insist after this explanation [that I spent it] is going to prove to me where have I used this money."

Zuma said he supported investigations into cost escalations related to government expenditure on his Nkandla home. The investigation is by the public protector and the auditor-general. He said they were well placed to establish the facts.

"I've been convicted, painted black, called the first-class corrupt man, on facts that are not tested; I take exception."

But Mazibuko was unmoved by Zuma's outburst.

"Thirty-one new buildings, six of which cost R8-million each . is that a security enhancement? R2.3-million for lifts to carry the honourable president [to] his underground bunker . is that security enhancement? Is air-conditioning systems for every one of the houses at a cost of R1.5-million a security enhancement? [Are] a visitors' centre, a gymnasium and guest rooms security enhancements?

"The fact that this is the president's private home is something that we take exception to. The government does not have a responsibility to upgrade, at a cost of R250-million, the private home of the honourable president," she said, to loud jeers and heckles from the ANC benches.

Zuma quickly brushed aside Mazibuko's questions, saying her statement was premised on information that was not accurate.

"The additional houses that are put on my home are only five and that's what I can speak about. She's giving a huge number of houses that I have nothing to do with . I paid for my houses; don't include things that don't belong to me," said Zuma.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa has proposed that parliament send a team of MPs to Nkandla to establish the facts.

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