South Africa Refuses to Disclose Cost of Upgrading Zuma’s Home

South Africa’s government said it was obliged to pay for additional security, new roads, a clinic and helicopter pads at President Jacob Zuma’s rural homestead, while refusing to disclose how much it would cost taxpayers.

“We need to be mindful that it’s the president of the republic,” Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie, the acting director-general of the Public Works Department, told reporters in Pretoria today. “It’s classified information” what the facilities have cost.

Zuma, who became president in May 2009, is a Zulu traditionalist who has four wives and 21 children. His family home is situated in the hills of Nkandla in the northeast of KwaZulu-Natal province, where most homes and schools have no running water or electricity and are accessed by dirt roads or footpaths.

The security and infrastructure upgrade at Nkandla will cost 240 million rand ($27.7 million), Johannesburg’s Mail & Guardian newspaper reported today, citing government documents. On Sept. 30, the Johannesburg-based City Press newspaper cited a government report as saying the cost was 203 million rand. Those figures were incorrect, Fatyela-Lindie said.

The police, defense force and intelligence agencies carried out a security assessment at Nkandla and decided what upgrades were necessary, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi told reporters.

“The president does not implement these measures for himself,” Nxesi said. “There are certain costs we have to carry. The same is done for all presidents” of South Africa, past and present.

While government guidelines restrict state spending on security for public officials’ private homes to 100,000 rand, the minister said those provisions were not applicable to the president, who conducted official business at all his dwellings. “There is no way you can classify the president’s residence as private or official like any other residence,” he said.

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