President Jacob Zuma launched the Masibambisane Rural Development Project at Mkhondo Local Municipality, Gert Sibande District in Mpumalanga. President Zuma kicked of his visit by officially handing RDP Houses at Mangosuthu. He went on to participate in communal weeding of maize at Mhlongamvula and planting seeds at 386 Ha Lilima. The President then chaired a communal meeting where communities were encouraged to participate in communal farming. 06/11/2011

How can President Jacob Zuma justify spending R1 billion on a single village, when in KwaZulu-Natal many people still lacked access to the most basic services? That’s the question DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko wants answered.

She’ll be asking Parliament’s public spending watchdog, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), to investigate.

“I will be writing to the chairperson of Scopa, Themba Godi, to request that Scopa investigate this expenditure, as well as whether any undue influence was placed on the government to allocate taxpayer’s money to Masibambane, a non-state entity,” said Mazibuko.

Masibambisane is a rural development organisation chaired by Zuma. It is credited with the idea of building a new town a few kilometres from Zuma’s homestead at Nkandla - at a reported cost of R1bn in public money.

Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, says it is one of many rural development projects planned for SA. But Mazibuko believes it is a “serious abuse” of public funds.

She said part of the overall development would include the Department of Public Works spending R36 million to install a “state-of-the-art security system” at Zuma’s private Nkandla homestead, a helipad, a military health facility and housing for police and military personnel.

“How can President Zuma, through his private NGO, Masibambane, justify spending so much money on a single village, when across the province many people still do not have access to the most basic services? Through Masibambane, President Zuma seems to be building up his Mangaung War Machine, channelling money and development to his friends and supporters,” said Mazibuko.

She said she would also submit a written question to Zuma asking whether he would reconsider the amount being spent on Nkandla, “and instead distribute funding to projects in other rural villages, which are far more in need”.

Maharaj said Mazibuko was “more than welcome” to ask questions, but referred queries to the Department of Rural Development.

Mazibuko said while the DA supported rural development, it had to be done in a transparent, equitable way, “with public money spent wisely and fairly”.

“The taxes of millions of South Africa’s people, which include contributions by the poor and unemployed, can under no circumstances be used to fund President Zuma’s re-election campaign; nor can they be used to turn his private residence into a palace, as if he will govern South Africa forever… [SA] should not have to foot the bill for ‘Zumaville’,” said Mazibuko. - Cape Argus