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Who's funding Nkandla?

By Denise Williams | 2012-10-30 06:52:00.0

QUESTIONS about how President Jacob Zuma is funding the construction of his private family compound are set to arise after he dismissed claims that it was financed by taxpayers' money.

Zuma broke his silence over the saga yesterday, saying the upgrade of his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, was purely for security purposes.

Addressing the Foreign Correspondents Association in Johannesburg, Zuma said he had built his own home and that the state had funded the fencing for the property.

"I built my own house. No government built my house. Government came to say that we need security features. They have done things in my building for security."

He said it was also "wrong" to suggest he had asked for the renovations to be done.

Regarding state house Mahlambandlopfu in Pretoria, Zuma said: "It is a very huge house and I only use one room. It has every feature of security. I would not prefer to stay in such a house, whether in Pretoria or Cape Town. If you become president, you have got to do things which as an individual you would not have done."

Zuma's home, believed to have been financed by the government for nearly R250-million, boasts underground corridors and a helipad.

The construction is now subject to numerous probes:

lParliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) will be taking the Department of Public Works - which is spearheading the construction - to task.

Scopa chairman Themba Godi said yesterday that the department would be addressing the committee on its financial report and that during the briefing, questions around the KwaZulu-Natal residence would be raised.

Godi said a decision to call the department had been informed by the disclaimer its financial report received from the auditor-general and a request by DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko;

lPublic protector Thuli Madonsela has announced her office would investigate the upgrading of Zuma's private home as well as a state- funded R2-billion town development in the same area;

lThe Public Works Ministry recently said it would probe what appeared to be inflated costs of the upgrade;

lThe DA will be proposing a litany of measures to force Zuma and the government to come clean on the amounts spent.

This follows media reports that the Department of Public Works would be footing the bill for the upgrade, but Zuma would only be personally liable for 5% (about R10-million) of the bill. Zuma earns about R2.6-million a year.

Mazibuko told the media in Parliament yesterday that the government had proffered a series of weak excuses for sidestepping the issue.

She said this included hiding behind the National Key Point Act - which allowed for a lack of transparency in cases where the state security, of residences, for example, could be jeopardised.

Mazibuko plans to introduce a Private Members Bill to amend the act to ensure transparency.

DA MP Anchen Dreyer said the party would also be re-submitting proposed amendments to the Executive Ethics Act which governed the conduct of members of Cabinet, including the president.

"However, limitations within the current Executive Ethics Act prevent appropriate action from being taken. This is because the president is effectively his own adjudicator in cases of alleged conflict of interest," Dreyer said.

She said the upgrade was also in breach of the Ministerial Handbook, which stipulated that Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi may only approve state funds for security measures not exceeding R100000.

DA chief whip Watty Watson said the party would also continue to push for a portfolio committee on the presidency to be constituted in order to ensure parliamentary oversight and ensure transparency. Currently, such a structure does not exist.

"This has created a culture of being seen to be above the law within the presidency."