Zuma the master magician

19 March 2014 - 02:03 By Sipho Masombuka
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President Jacob Zuma. File photo
President Jacob Zuma. File photo
Image: Gallo Images

Today is judgment day in President Jacob Zuma's R206-million Nkandla security upgrading scandal but analysts warn that, given his track record for evading repercussions, the president will use every trick in the book to avoid being held accountable if public protector Thuli Madonsela's 400-page report implicates him in any wrongdoing.

Millions of rands of taxpayers' money have been splurged on his private residence, including the construction of a kraal, a chicken coop, a fence, a spaza shop, and a pool of disputed utility.

The Nkandla scandal was unearthed four years ago when journalists stumbled on massive upgrades at Zuma's compound in KwaZulu-Natal.

Madonsela's provisional report, leaked last year, reportedly found that Zuma had misled parliament and she recommended that he repay public money spent on the upgrades.

Institute for Accountability in SA director Paul Hoffman said yesterday: "Unless we are given some very fancy explanation" Madonsela would find Zuma accountable for the spending on Nkandla.

He said Zuma would use every trick in the book and "a couple of others yet to be invented" to cast doubt on the public protector's findings.

"Show me another house in South Africa on which R206-million was spent on the security of one person and I might be persuaded that it was cost-effective," he said.

The ANC has said it would ignore Madonsela's findings.

Political analyst Prince Mashele said Zuma was not "morally troubled by an adverse image around him. He will find mechanisms to undermine the office of the public protector".

Mashele said that if Madonsela found that Zuma misled parliament he would have to resign.

"He has made the commitment to parliament that he paid for the upgrades in Nkandla. If the public protector finds otherwise, that would mean he lied to parliament.

"But I have no doubt that, given the kind of president we are dealing with, he would not even imagine resigning."

The DA has vowed to push for Zuma's impeachment if the report finds him accountable .

What was spent on what?

R71.2-million was spent on the construction of a 4m-high retaining wall, relocation of a cattle kraal and construction of a culvert to prevent cattle from damaging sensitive electronic security equipment and a fence costing R9.2-million. Bullet-proof windows at R3-million, electronic detection system at R10-million, lift at R1.9-million.

Over R130-million was spent on accommodation for security personnel, and R54.8-million on a clinic, helipad and access road.

What Zuma said:

In November 2012, Zuma told parliament that he was still paying off a bond for the construction of "every single house" in his compound. He said he was not party to specifying the security upgrades on his property.

Ministerial investigation

The security upgrades were necessary to ensure Zuma's safety and his residence had been declared to be a "national key point". The report said that no public funds were used to build Zuma's private housing and Zuma did not ask for the security upgrades.

What Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi said:

Nxesi said the ministers' report would not be made public . But when Madonsela's provisional report was leaked Nxesi released it .

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