South Africa State Probe Says Zuma Had No Role in Home Upgrades

South African President Jacob Zuma had no role in authorizing 206 million rand ($20 million) of public funds used to upgrade security at his personal residence, a government commissioned investigation found.

Zuma didn’t ask for the security improvements at his homestead in rural Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province and the government was obliged to revamp the property because of the history of violence in the region, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi told reporters on Pretoria today.

The security installations cost about 71 million rand, with the remainder spent on “operational needs and basic facilities and services,” including water, power and housing for police, Nxesi said.

Zuma, 71, has faced a backlash since the Johannesburg-based Mail and Guardian newspaper last month reported details from a draft report by the nation’s corruption ombudsman, which found the president personally benefited from the renovations that went beyond planned security requirements. Included in the construction were an amphitheater, enclosures for cattle and chicken, and a swimming pool, according to the newspaper.

The chicken coop was created because the original buildings used for that purpose were deemed a potential security threat where intruders could hide, Nxesi said. The swimming pool was actually a fire pool to be used for firefighting purposes as most of the houses on the property had thatched roofs, he said.

Over-Pricing

“None of the issues that we assessed qualify to be called ‘nice-to-haves’,” National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said at the Pretoria briefing. “I hear somebody say a chicken run can be seen as that, but when we deal with security issues it is important for us to deal with all the impediments to security.”

The Department of Public Works has asked the Special Investigating Unit, an anti-corruption body, and the police to conduct further probes because the government’s report identified irregularities in the building procurement process and supply chain of service providers, Nxesi said.

“Large variation orders and the high percentage spent on consultancy fees point to the possibility of over-pricing and collusion,” he said.

Corruption ombudsman, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, is due to release her report on the security upgrades in Nkandla next month.

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