Zuma in $23m home revamp row

March 20, 2014 - 10:18:48 am

The homestead of South African President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla.

PRETORIA: South Africa’s public ombudsman ruled yesterday that some of the $23m taxpayer-funded improvements to President Jacob Zuma’s luxurious private residence were excessive and unlawful.

In a scathing report issued just weeks ahead of South Africa’s elections, ombudsman Thuli Madonsela also ordered Zuma to repay part of the costs of the upgrades at his village homestead.

“Some of these measures can be legitimately classified as unlawful and the acts involved constitute improper conduct and maladministration,” Madonsela said.

The long-awaited report, titled “Secure in Comfort” — which also implicated several ministers — found that Zuma violated the executive ethics code by failing to protect state resources and that there was “excessive” spending.

Madonsela blamed the government for the two years it took to produce the report, saying Zuma had taken nine months to respond to her questions. “There is nothing political about the report, all I have done as the ombudsman is to discharge my responsibility. And I have done that.”

The opposition Democratic Alliance said that in light of the “damning findings” it would urgently initiate impeachment proceedings against Zuma. 

In a terse statement, Zuma said he would study the findings and “will communicate his response in due course”. Renovations at so-called “Zumaville” cost taxpayers 246m rand ($23m) in a project touted as a security upgrade but which included a visitors’ centre, swimming pool, an amphitheatre, private clinic and even a chicken coop. Madonsela also ordered Zuma to “reprimand the ministers involved for the appalling manner in which the Nkandla project was handled and state funds were abused”. AFP

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