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President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead could become the scene of violent clashes tomorrow if the DA goes ahead with a planned visit to the controversial compound, the ANC has warned.
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal said yesterday the visit would be construed as a “serious direct attack on the president and his family”.
“It goes without saying that people who reside at President Zuma’s home have a right to protect themselves from anyone who invades their home,” the party said.
It said it didn’t want a repeat of events at Cosatu House in Joburg earlier this year - when several people were injured during clashes between DA and Cosatu supporters as the opposition party tried to march to the union federation’s headquarters in support of a youth wage subsidy.
“We appeal to the DA to consider abandoning their plan,” the provincial ANC said.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesman Senzo Mkhize said that while the party was not suggesting there would be violence, it couldn’t rule out the possibility as “we are not sure of the reaction of the local community”.
He acknowledged that the party had not been in touch with community leaders to find out if there was likely to be a confrontation.
The DA, meanwhile, was unfazed by the warning.
The party’s national spokesman, Mmusi Maimane, said the visit would go ahead “despite ANC threats”.
“We live in a democratic South Africa. There can be no ‘no-go’ areas for any political party,” he said.
It would be only a small delegation, consisting of DA leader Helen Zille, Maimane, DA KwaZulu-Natal leader Sizwe Mchunu, the party’s Limpopo leader Jacques Smalle and KwaZulu-Natal chairman Haniff Hoosen, the party said.
“We have no intention of entering the president’s property and we have no intention of protesting or engaging in any kind of provocative action,” Maimane stressed.
The party was fully aware that it was a private residence.
“This is exactly why we are opposed to the government spending R250 million of public money on it.”
Newspaper reports have said the Public Works Department is spending an estimated R240m on upgrades to the president’s compound, including a helipad, an underground bunker and custom-made bulletproof windows.
IFP MP Mario Ambrosini suggested in Parliament this week the measures were designed to withstand “a prolonged siege”.
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said on Thursday the auditor-general had been asked to audit spending on the upgrade as, given the department’s “lack of controls”, he could not rule out the possibility that prices had been inflated for the work.
Nxesi has insisted the upgrade involves necessary security measures based on a threat assessment done by police and defence officials. He has refused to divulge the costs, saying the work is being done under the National Key Points Act - an apartheid-era law that prohibits disclosure of information on sites declared as national key points.
The public protector has also confirmed that she would investigate the upgrade, as well as the development of a R2bn town at the village of Nkandla - dubbed “Zumaville” in the media.
Maimane said in his statement the party would respect the privacy of Zuma and his family but “the ANC must respect the democratic right and duty of an opposition party to conduct oversight and hold powerful politicians accountable”.
“For too long this project has been shrouded in secrecy. Given the huge public interest in this issue, we have decided to visit the site to see what is happening there for ourselves. We will do so responsibly at all times.”
Then-DA chief whip Douglas Gibson was reprimanded by Parliament in 2006 following a fiery debate after he paid a similar visit to then-president Thabo Mbeki’s private home.
Security upgrades there were reported to have cost R3.5m.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize and Cosatu in the province also slammed the DA’s planned visit.
Mkhize’s spokesman Ndabe Sibiya said the visit was a provocative action. “All political parties have a right to free political activities but we need to bear in mind that we are currently experiencing political instability in the province,” said Sibiya yesterday.
“We therefore discourage any provocative action from any political party, including the DA.”
Cosatu in KwaZulu-Natal said in a statement that it was “worried by the sudden bravery and irresponsibility” of the DA which was “hell-bent” on staging “an illegal march” to Zuma’s house.
“We call on police to do their work and disperse any groupings that may gather illegally around the private residence of any South African citizen, including that of our State President. We call on police to use this as an opportunity to send a clear message that no one is above the law, particularly Helen Zille.”
Independent on Saturday