139 Home of President Jacob Zuma at KwaNxamalala in Nkandla. 021009. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg -

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi has again justified public funds expenditure on President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla residence – this time saying Zuma has to be commended for staying among the poor and in a village.

Speaking to Kaya FM’s John Perlman on Thursday night, Nxesi went on the offensive about the reported R250 million being splurged on the projects, arguing that Zuma’s security was paramount.

He said his department was only spending money on Zuma’s security, but he would not disclose the amount that had been spent.

Nxesi said Zuma’s critics should appreciate that the president had chosen to stay in a rural area, where he said upgrade costs were justifiably high.

“Most of the people, 50 percent of South Africans, live in the rural areas. They appreciate [it] when their leaders are in those areas,” said Nxesi.

He said public works was only spending money on Zuma’s security at his compound.

“If it’s something beyond security, we will investigate who gave that particular instruction,” said Nxesi.

Asked if the clinic formed part of Zuma’s security, Nxesi said: “Yes, the president should be within a particular distance of a medical facility, in case of a medical emergency.”

He said members of the public living in the neighbourhood would be allowed to use the clinic.

Nxesi defended his department against accusations that it was not being accountable to the public.

“It is this department which has gone to the SIU [Special Investigating Unit], it is the president who has signed the proclamation to say, investigate any corruption. It is us who invited the auditor-general, it is us who have given documents to the public protector to say ‘come and investigate’ “.

But, some listeners rejected his explanation.

Pinky, from Orlando, Soweto, lashed out at him.

“I don’t believe what the minister is saying. He is lying to us. Where are the documents? We want to know the minutes of the meeting that authorised that project,” she said.

Pinky warned the ANC that black voters were becoming wiser, and that they would ultimately vote it out of power.

Another listener said Nxesi was kowtowing to protect his political career.

“I am not closing any ranks. The fact that I am putting my own investigation [in place], [that] we are co-operating with the public protector, is an indication that we are committed to transparency and accountability,” Nxesi said.

Other callers came to Nxesi’s defence, with one caller accusing the media of being generally negative.

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The Star