Durban - Durban businessman Vivian Reddy, who at one stage was personally involved in the funding of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home, rallied to his defence on Sunday amid allegations that the president might have misled Parliament when he claimed he had taken out a loan to finance the development of the sprawling residential complex .

Reddy, a personal friend and backer of Zuma, slammed the outcry over the multimillion-rand Nkandla development as nothing more than a “political stunt”.

“I’m very close to Nkandla. I lent the president the money to pay for the first phase and he paid it back. Now he has taken a new bond,” Reddy told The Mercury on Sunday.

City Press newspaper reported on Sunday that there was no evidence that a bond had been registered against Zuma’s family property and it was unable to find public records that corroborated the president’s claim. It said Zuma’s home was built on land owned by the Ingonyama Trust, which also had no knowledge of a bond.

Asked for details on the bond, Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said: “ No, unfortunately I don’t have any information. I’m simply saying ‘no comment’ at this stage.”

Reddy said: “The City Press are so wrong and are infringing on the president’s privacy. I am informed that the Presidency will be formally responding to that matter.”

Opposition parties on Sunday questioned whether or not Zuma had misled Parliament. DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said that, if this was the case, then “serious consequences must follow”.

Zuma has been in the firing line for several weeks since it has been alleged that about R250 million of public funds was spent on upgrading his private home at Nkandla.

Last week an emotional Zuma told the National Assembly that the Nkandla outcry had reduced his family to “a laughing stock” and he had been “convicted, painted black, called the first-class corrupt man, on facts that are not tested”.

“My residence in Nkandla has been paid for by the Zuma family,” he said. “All the buildings and every room we use in that residence was built by ourselves as family and not by the government.

“I have never asked the government to build a home for me, and it has not done so. A necessary distinction must, therefore, be made between work which I have mandated and initiated in my home, as opposed to the security enhancement undertaken by the government.”

Zuma also told Parliament that he was servicing a bond.

Public protector Thuli Madonsela is investigating the Nkandla matter while Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi has said that the auditor-general has been asked to audit the spending on the Nkandla upgrade as there is a possibility that prices could have been inflated owing to “a lack of controls” in his department.

However, Reddy, who is also in the construction industry, said what people failed to understand was that it cost 30 percent more to build in a rural area. He said that when Zuma received visitors at his Nkandla home it had to look good.

“We can’t have the president living in a cheap rondavel; it must be befitting of his office,” Reddy said.

He said the construction of a helicopter pad at Nkandla was “absolutely essential” in case there was an emergency or the president had a heart attack, while the bunkers were also a necessity. “‘Look at the Ugandan president; his palace cost R1bn,” said Reddy.

Asked if he was involved in the latest Nkandla upgrade, Reddy said that he was busy with other work.

“Also, given our overhead structures and the remote area our price would have been 30 percent to 40 percent more than the normal average price for the electrical works. Therefore, we did not tender for the contract,” Reddy said.

He said Zuma should be commended for still living in Nkandla when he could be living in the plushest areas in the country.

Zuma said last week that he had no idea how much money had been spent on security upgrades, which were done in terms of the National Key Points Act, at his home.

The security measures included houses built beyond the perimeter of the property for security staff, fencing, bulletproof windows and a security bunker.

The Nkandla issue has raised temperatures around the country.

Two weeks ago DA leader Helen Zille led a delegation from her party to Nkandla for a “site inspection”, but the police, citing safety concerns when angry Zuma supporters blocked the road, stopped them from getting close to the property.

On Saturday the SACP in KZN also marched in Nkandla to show its support for the government’s “rural development”.

SABC staff have been forbidden to refer to Zuma’s complex as a “homestead” or “compound”, and the terms “Nkandlagate” and “Zumaville” have also been banned.

The Mercury