S.Africa’s Zuma says didn’t ask for controversial house revamp
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma on Sunday said he did not ask for multi-million dollar state-funded makeover of his private house after an ombudsman found that he unduly benefitted from the renovations.
The ombudsman said the $23 million spent on the renovations at Zuma’s country homestead was excessive and ordered him to repay some of the costs.
But in his first public reaction to the damning report released 11 days ago, Zuma shifted the blame to government officials saying he did not ask for the renovations and he would not repay.
“They did this without telling me,” he was shown saying in local vernacular on local private television ANN7. “So why should I pay for something I did not ask for.”
He was speaking casually during the door-to-door campaign for the May 7 vote in which he is seeking re-election in Cape Town’s Gugulethu township.
The cost of the refurbishments, which include a helipad, a swimming pool and even a chicken coop, have ballooned to $23 million from the initial estimate of 65 million rand ($6 million) in 2009.
It was the first time Zuma commented publicly on the so-called “Nkandla-gate” in reference to the name of the village in his stronghold in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
Already his ruling African National Congress, whose popularity is flagging ahead of May 7 elections, has said officials implicated in the scandal should be called to account.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance has launched a criminal corruption case against Zuma over the upgrades and plans impeachment proceedings.
The splurge on the house — nestled in the verdant hills of Zuma’s political stronghold — has caused anger in a country where there is widespread poverty and where 10 million people live on welfare.