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S. Africa opposition denounces spending on Zuma’s ‘extravagant’ home

South Africa’s main opposition on Wednesday criticised the “grossly inflated” public spending on President Jacob Zuma’s residence, demanding accountability for what the government insists are security upgrades.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) latest criticism came after a lawmakers’ visit to inspect the $24 million (22 million euro) facelift of the private residence at Nkandla, which includes a swimming pool, an amphitheatre, a helipad and a cattle enclosure.

“Having toured the extravagant property, it is clear that the upgrades far exceed the minimum requirement to secure the private home of a president of the Republic, and would not have been undertaken to that scale were it not for the President’s intervention,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane said.

The cluster of thatched roof houses and an adjacent housing complex for security staff and a football field have become symbols of the increasing corruption that has plagued Zuma’s administration.

The DA’s statement echoed a report last year by the public ombudsman, which said Zuma and his family “benefited unduly” from the work in the remote village of Nkandla in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.

But several government investigations have since exonerated Zuma of any wrongdoing, despite the ombudsman’s recommendation that he pay back some of the money used for the improvements.

Maimane said the latest visit proved “that the scope of the project was never to secure the President’s private residence, but to upgrade it to the status of a Presidential Residence at a grossly inflated cost.”

The opposition statement criticised the upgrades as not “cost-effective use of public funds” and said they were “far in excess of the minimum standard required to meet security needs.”

“Everything we have seen today reinforces our stance that President Zuma clearly unduly benefitted as the public protector found,” it added.

The lavish spending has angered many in a country where poverty remains widespread 21 years after apartheid officially ended.

Some members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party have also criticised the spending on the project, while maintaining that Zuma was not responsible for the cost.

Rage over the Nkandla affair has repeatedly thrown parliament into chaos, with members of the radical left Economic Freedom Fighters movement disrupting sessions with chants of “pay back the money.”

Zuma has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.