Government’s decision to plough hundreds of millions of Rands into Jacob Zuma’s private homestead and the local surrounds of Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal has made headline news around the world.
No expense, it seems, has been spared for the president’s private home and the improvements include thirty one new buildings, which were constructed at a cost of R8-million per building. In addition, the state will pay R2.3-million for lifts installed to transport Zuma from an underground bunker to the main houses. To cool things down, the state will also be paying R1.5-million for air-conditioning units as well as footing the bill for the R3-million spent on installing bullet-proof glass in properties on the premises. It has also been revealed that R54-million has been spent on consultants, including a project manager, a quantity surveyor, engineers and architects.
Zuma's Nknadla Homestead
More intent on finding who let the cat out of the bag, government has remained pretty tight-lipped on the whole affair, even though reports reflecting that tax payers will be footing the majority of the bill, totalling a reported R248-million, have come to light. This, despite the Public Works Department telling parliament in August last year that the project would only cost R6.4-million. Zuma himself has pleaded ignorance of the expenditure and has put the ball firmly in the court of Public Works, who not only gave permission for the work to go ahead, but also funded the majority of the project using taxpayers hard-earned money.
The Minister of Public Works, Thulas Nxesi, has insisted that Nkandla is a key security point and therefore deemed a state secret. In a recent interview he appeared to be far more concerned with who had leaked information about the project than he did about addressing the concerns regarding the vast amounts of taxpayer’s money being spent on an individual’s private home.
It seems that no one in the ANC-led government finds the expenditure unwarranted and judging by the response of ANC supporters when the Democratic Alliance tried to inspect the President’s compound, those who voted the government into power are firmly behind the spending. This is ironic, considering that the entire area houses a vast number of unemployed people in a place with a reportedly high rate of HIV and AIDS, who would have perhaps prefer the money to be spent on medical care and job creation.
Government has tried to justify the vast amount spent by pointing out that the upgrades were similar to those received by former presidents. In a report in a Sunday newspaper, however, Former president De Klerk, denied this saying that the state had paid to increase the height of the perimeter wall around his property in the Western Cape. Government also paid for the installation of security cameras as well as constructing a room with a toilet for his guards. It was also noted that when De Klerk retired, the state paid for a security hut to be constructed on the pavement outside his Pretoria residence. A far cry indeed from the helipads, underground bunkers and other over-the-top amenities that have either been built or are in the process of being built.
While government hides behind apartheid-era laws such as the Key Points Act, the voices of dissent are growing increasingly loud. The Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s official opposition party is refusing to let the matter rest and has indicated that it will use a recent Constitutional Court ruling to prevent a repeat of the Nkandla debacle in the future.