*This story has been updated
Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has found that President Jacob Zuma received extensive personal benefits from the upgrade to his Nkandla home and should refund the state, the Mail & Guardian reported on Friday.
The newspaper was citing Madonsela's provisional report into the renovations at the president's private homestead in KwaZulu-Natal and drew a rebuke from her office, pointing out that it was illegal to publish such reports.
"It violates section 7(2) of the Public Protector Act 23, 1994," her spokeswoman Kgalalelo Masibi said in a statement.
"As a rule, we do not comment on whatever purports to be a provisional report of the public protector as those are not reports of the public protector."
In an editorial, the Mail & Guardian said it had expected fullsome criticism for its decision to run the report but did so nonetheless because it believed there was a risk government would resort to further court action to stop Madonsela's final report into "Nkandlagate" from seeing the light.
Its two-page article cited Madonsela recommending in the provisional report that Zuma be called to account for failing to safeguard state resources and for misleading Parliament.
The president has repeatedly told the legislature that he and his family had paid for all work at Nkandla that was not related to security improvements at the estate.
Government has likewise insisted that the upgrades were essential for Zuma's security, but Madonsela found a swimming pool, visitors' centre, amphitheatre, cattle kraal, marquee area, extensive paving, and new houses for relatives included in the upgrade at "enormous cost" to the taxpayer.
Madonsela's report recommended that he must repay a "reasonable" amount of the money spent to the state, the Mail & Guardian said.
One of the key allegations listed in the report stated that costs escalated from an initial R27 million to R215m, with a further R31m in works outstanding.
The newspaper said documents dating from three years ago complained about the rising cost of the project, but it continued to escalate after Zuma's private architect was imposed as a "principal agent" on the project by the president.
It quoted Madonsela as finding in her report that this amounted to "political interference" by the president.
The newspaper said its report was based not only on Madonsela's provisional report but also on more than 12,000 pages of documents it forced the public works department to release using access-to-information legislation.
Madonsela has been locked in a tense standoff with ministers of Cabinet's security cluster, who insist there is a danger her findings will result in security arrangements becoming public and compromise the president's security.
The Mail & Guardian recalled that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa had stated that Madonsela was not qualified to decide whether the information she brought to light might constitute a security breach, and would exceed her powers if she sought to do so.
At a briefing last week, Mthethwa and his fellow ministers in the security cluster had left open the door for further litigation against Madonsela and also reiterated that she should hand her final report to Parliament.
Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said if Madonsela's final report matched what had been reported, her party would table a motion asking Parliament to investigate the president.
"As more and more details surrounding Nkandlagate emerge, it is becoming increasingly clear that President Zuma is at the centre of one of the biggest corruption scandals in democratic South Africa. He must be accordingly held accountable by Parliament for his actions."
But United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said Zuma had misled Parliament and the public, and it was not useful for Madonsela's final report to be handed to the legislature.
Holomisa said police had to conduct a parallel investigation to get to the bottom of what happened at Nkandla.
"One thing is clear; President Zuma has misled Parliament and the nation. Unfortunately this person is not accountable to the electorate, but to Luthuli House, and the African National Congress must take responsibility for the actions of their deployee.
"For us to take this matter to Parliament is not going to work and we, instead, must send the police, the Hawks and the auditors to get to the bottom of this mess," he said.
Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota said it backed Madonsela's reported recommendation that Zuma be made to repay money spent at Nkandla.
"The Congress of the People welcomes and supports to the hilt the Public Protector’s directive that President Jacob Zuma pay back public funds which was spend on his private retreat at Nkandla," he said.