South Africa’s ruling party denied President Jacob Zuma was involved in the misuse of state funds to upgrade his private home, after the Mail & Guardian reported that a graft probe recommended he repay part of the money.
An investigation by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found Zuma personally benefitted from renovations to his residence in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province, which went beyond security improvements, the Johannesburg-based newspaper said today, citing unidentified people with access to the report. The construction included a swimming pool, amphitheater, cattle enclosures and houses for relatives, the newspaper said.
“We continue to have confidence in our president and we believe and know that he is not responsible for any wrongdoing with regard to the Nkandla security upgrade,” the African National Congress said in an e-mailed statement. Madonsela’s report hasn’t been released and “what has been publicized has not been proven to be that report,” it said.
Spending on Zuma’s home has cost taxpayers 208 million rand ($20.4 million), according to the government. Madonsela’s report says costs escalated to 215 million rand from an initial projection of 27 million rand, with another 31 million rand in works outstanding, the Mail & Guardian said.
The ministers of police, public works and state security tried to block Madonsela from her probe, she said on Nov. 14. The final report will be shared with the parties cited in her investigation before being made public, she said.
Madonsela’s office said in a statement today it doesn’t comment on provisional reports, which are confidential.
The government said that while it believed the security upgrades were justified, the Department of Public Works handled the issue in an “inappropriate” manner.
“There had been a number of irregularities in the appointment of service providers and the procurement of goods and services,” government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said in an e-mailed statement.
Zuma, 71, is bidding for a second term as president after elections that must be held by July. He has said he didn’t order changes to his homestead that the state paid for and that the security agencies are responsible for his protection.
Madonsela’s investigation found that costs escalated after Zuma’s private architect was appointed as “principal agent” in the Department of Public Works, according to the Mail & Guardian.
Zuma appointed four firms to work on the refurbishment without following tender procedures, the newspaper said.
State spending on Zuma’s home exceeded the amounts spent on previous presidents, according to the Mail & Guardian. Upgrades to Nelson Mandela’s home cost 32 million rand, while renovations to Thabo Mbeki’s residence were worth 12 million rand and F.W de Klerk’s house 236,000 rand, according to the newspaper.