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Zille’s Nkandla warning to Zuma

Published Nov 5, 2012

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 KwaZulu-Natal - DA leader Helen Zille has given the government until close of business on Wednesday to respond to questions about renovations at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home, or face court action.

The DA leader and six other senior party members were forced to abort their inspection of Nkandla and a new highway, just a kilometre before their destination on Sunday, after angry Zuma supporters, many of them armed with traditional weapons, blocked the road.

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While Zille was flanked by Haniff Hoosen, the party’s provincial chairman, and Jacques Smalle, the DA’s Limpopo leader, the absence of the party’s KZN leader, Sizwe Mchunu, was surprising.

On Sunday night, Zille told The Mercury that Mchunu – who has two small children – and other DA members had received death threats in the days leading up to the trip.

Everyone had been given a “free choice” to join in the inspection or not, she said.

Mchunu confirmed that he had received threats but said it was not the main reason he had stayed away. He had told the party he had “another commitment”.

An angry Zille lashed out at the police, questioning why her group, which had permission to visit, could not travel on the road to Zuma’s homestead while protesters, who had gathered there illegally, could do so.

“We are here to see what R248m of taxpayers’ money looks like, compared to a year ago,” she said.

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She said it was a matter of court record that Nkandla had been built through “bribe” money paid to Zuma in the arms deal when he was still deputy president, and he had used his position as president to escape prosecution. Now he had abused his position to finish the renovations to his homestead with public money.

“Nkandla, a village on the hill, will become a monument to how corrupt a government became in a short time,” she said.

While Zille addressed the media and fought with the police at one end of the road, public order police struggled to keep an angry crowd behind their “crime scene” cordon tape.

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Some MK veterans lay in the road, saying they would prevent the DA entourage from passing, with their lives. When the crowd heard Zille had arrived they started running up the road towards her.

At one point a rifle shot was fired into the air. Police spokesman Jay Naicker said a man had been arrested for discharging a firearm in a public area and for having a weapon at a public gathering.

Zille said that even KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize had phoned to advise her that her visit to Nkandla should be called off because “there was likely to be a violent response”, but they had decided to go ahead.

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On Saturday, the Presidency said the DA’s motives were “highly questionable and mischievous” and that it smacked of a “disingenuous publicity gimmick”.

Zille said they had achieved their objective of “massive exposure to major corruption and this was just the beginning”.

After her failed battle to get past the police, Zille and her group went to the Nkandla police station where they opened a case against the ANC in terms of the Illegal Gatherings Act, said Naicker.

Some Zuma supporters followed them to the police station where they rattled the gates as their protest continued. At least 10 busloads of people from across the ANC’s Musa Dladla region, which includes Eshowe and Empangeni, as well as several taxis brought protesters to Nkandla.

Some of them told The Mercury: “We are waiting for the madam of Cape Town. She is only welcome if she is coming to marry Msholozi.”

While Zille insisted that they never wanted a big delegation, ANC KZN secretary Sihle Zikalala applauded Mchunu and DA leaders from Umhlatuze and Uthungulu for not supporting the Nkandla visit.

They had shown “respect” for the president’s dignity and privacy.

“No one prevented Helen Zille from entering Nkandla as an area… the people said they will not enter the house of the president.”

Zikalala said the upgrade at Zuma’s home was being investigated by the public protector. “Unless Zille does not have confidence in the public protector she should seek other legal avenues,” he said.

Auditor-General Terence Nombembe has also been asked to audit the spending on the upgrade at Zuma’s home.

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The Mercury

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