PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma says he’s been “convicted, painted black, called the first-class corrupt man on facts that are not tested” over the spending of more than R200 million in public funds on his private Nkandla home.
“I have never asked government to build a home for me, and it has not done so,” he said in Parliament yesterday.
“My residence in Nkandla has been paid for by the Zuma family.”
“All the buildings and every room we use in that residence was built by ourselves as family and not by government. I take exception,” he said, to applause from ANC benches.
He explained that the images “paraded” on television were of his private home, built by himself and his family, and not of the houses built by the Public Works Department to house security personnel. Those homes, he said, were not on his property.
He was still paying off a bond on the work done privately, he said.
In a long, sometimes emotional departure from his prepared response, Zuma said he wanted to “help” MPs to understand the facts “as they are”.
He had, with his family, decided to extend their home when it finally became possible to do so, following a period of violence in KwaZulu-Natal during which his home was burnt down twice.
“Once violence was over, I took the decision to extend my home. I built more rondavels, modern ones, and I fenced my home. I engaged the bank and I’m still paying a bond on the first phase of my home.”
This work had still been under way when he became president, when he was approached by officials who said they needed to upgrade security features.
“What then happened, because government insisted from a security point of view they needed to participate, I then made government to meet with the contractors, who were already on site,” he said.
The Public Works Department’s only involvement in his private residence had been incorporating the security measures into the family’s plan to extend the home, Zuma said.
He said “a wrong impression is being given in the country – that government has built a home for me”.
“It is not true. People are speaking without knowing. And therefore saying I spent so much money of government. I’ve never done this. It is unfair. And I don’t want to use harsher words. Because you believe that people like me can’t build a home.”
Zuma said he could not account for the spending outside the perimeter of his residence, but “all of that is being piled on me as having used R200m”.
“And therefore I am very corrupt. I take exception.”
Referring to a recent visit by the DA to the area to see his home and assess the work undertaken – an attempt thwarted by police and ANC supporters – Zuma said: “You then have leaders of political parties, who don’t know whether they are provincial or national, taking trips to come and photograph my house and making a laughing stock of my family. I take exception to this. You must deal with the facts you know.”
But Zuma’s insistence that he could answer questions only about his private home and not about the government’s spending on security features was challenged by DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko. “The fact that the honourable president’s house is his own home, built by himself, is exactly what is at issue today. The fact that the government is spending R250m to upgrade, not a presidential house, but the president’s own house, built by himself, his own private residence, not a state residence – this is what is at issue today,” Mazibuko said.
She said he was trying to hide behind the National Key Points Act.
“If you want to talk about security enhancements, let’s talk about security enhancements: 31 new buildings, six of which cost R8m each – is that a security enhancement? R2.3m for lifts carrying the honourable president to his underground bunker – is that a security enhancement?” Mazibuko asked.
“Is air conditioning systems for every one of the houses at a cost of R1.5m, air conditioning, is that a security enhancement? Is a visitors’ centre, a gymnasium and guest rooms – are these security enhancements? The fact that this is the honourable president’s private home is something that we take exception to. The government does not have a responsibility to upgrade at cost of R250m the private home of the honourable president.” In a follow-up question, Mazibuko asked Zuma to explain the “security enhancements” made at Nkandla.
Responding, Zuma told Mazibuko she was premising questions on information that was not accurate. “Speaker, there are only… five additional houses in my home that I can speak about. She is [speaking of] a huge number of houses I have nothing to do with. She then adds the amount of money on houses that [I] have never paid… I paid for my houses. There are five… Don’t include things that don’t belong to me.” The other houses were not part of his residence, Zuma said.