Zuma's South African Nkandla home upgrade 'unethical'

Satellite images showed Mr Zuma's growing residence

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South Africa's top corruption fighter has said President Jacob Zuma has "benefited unduly" from using state money to improve his rural residence.

The changes to Mr Zuma's private home, including a pool and cattle enclosure, cost taxpayers about $23m (£13.8m).

In a more than 400-page report, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela accused Mr Zuma of unethical conduct.

She said that Mr Zuma, who faces re-election in May, should repay costs for some of the unnecessary renovations.

Spending on presidents' private homes

Mr Zuma's Nkandla residence in 2013 - satellite image
  • PW Botha: $16,100
  • FW de Klerk: $22,000
  • Nelson Mandela: $2.9m on two residences
  • Thabo Mbeki: $1.1m
  • Jacob Zuma: $23m on rural Nkandla residence

All figures in 2013 financial terms

Source: Public protector report

The refurbishment of the residence in Nkandla, in Mr Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal, has turned into a major political controversy in South Africa.

A government probe in December cleared President Zuma, who came to office in May 2009, of any wrongdoing, saying the improvements were needed for security reasons.

Correspondents say it was one of the reasons why Mr Zuma was booed in December at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president.

'Bona fide mistake'

At a press conference in the capital, Pretoria, Ms Madonsela, South Africa's ombudsman, said the cost of the Nkandla upgrades were now estimated at 246m rand ($23m; £13.8m).

The original estimate for the work in 2009 was about 27m rand and the public protector launched her investigation in 2012 after it was reported that about 206m rand had been spent.

Her report, entitled Secure in Comfort, shows that the total amounts to eight times the money spent securing two private homes for Mr Mandela and more than 1,000 times that spent on FW de Klerk, South Africa's last apartheid-era president.

Analysis

As I watched Public Protector Thuli Madonsela painstakingly ploughing through the long report, I wondered what former South African President Nelson Mandela would be saying had he been alive.

It is ironic that in a year when the country is supposed to be celebrating 20 years of democratic rule, President Jacob Zuma has been found to have violated the very rules he is meant to protect.

The most devastating line was when the softly spoken, but tough Ms Madonsela stated paragraph 10.10.1.6: "His failure to act in protection of state resources constitutes a violation of executive ethics code and accordingly, amounts to conduct that is inconsistent with his office as a member of cabinet."

She ends the report with this quotation from Mr Mandela: "Let it never be said by future generations that indifference, cynicism or selfishness made us fail to live up to the ideals of humanism which the Nobel Peace Prize encapsulates."

"The president tacitly accepted the implementation of all measures at his residence and has unduly benefited from the enormous capital investment in the non-security installations at his private residence," Ms Madonsela said, reading from the report's executive summary.

Correspondents say Mr Zuma has in the past repeatedly told parliament he used his own family funds to build his homestead.

The report said that while it could be "legitimately construed" that Mr Zuma had misled parliament over the renovations, it said it was a "bona fide mistake".

"Some of these measures can be legitimately classified as unlawful and the acts involved constitute improper conduct and maladministration," the public protector's said.

Ms Madonsela said Mr Zuma had 14 days to respond to her report before parliament.

The BBC's Andrew Harding says the report comes just two months before the governing African National Congress (ANC) faces national elections.

Mr Zuma has successfully brushed aside previous scandals, but Nkandla seems to have touched a particular nerve, he says.

The ANC is not about to lose power, but its popularity is shrinking, our correspondent adds.

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