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South Africa's Zuma criticized by graft watchdog

Asumpta Lattus (Reuters, AFP, dpa)March 19, 2014

President Jacob Zuma has been severely criticized for the upgrade of his private luxury home at Nkandla in a report by South Africa's anti-graft watchdog.

Südafrika Privates Anwesen Präsident Jacob Zuma
Image: AFP/Getty Images

In a long-awaited report released on Wednesday (19.03.2014), Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said President Zuma has benefited "unduly" from a $23 million (6.5 million euros) state-funded security upgrade at Nkandla private home in KwaZulu-Natal, which included a swimming pool, a helicopter pad, cattle enclosure and an amphitheatre.

Madonsela also said that although President Zuma had not deliberately misled parliament by saying the upgrade of his private luxury home was financed by him and his family, she found that the president had failed to act against the use of state resources.

This was "a violation of Paragraph II of the executive's ethics code and accordingly amounts to conduct that is inconsistent with his office as a member of cabinet as contemplated by Section 96 of the constitution," Madonsela said.

Madonsela said taxpayers' money was unlawfully used and that President Zuma must repay part of the money spent on his private home makeover.

South African President Jacob ZUma
President Zuma's private home Ndandla has been a talk of the country since 2009Image: Reuters

"Some of these measures can be legitimately classified as unlawful and the acts involved constitute improper conduct and maladministration," Thuli Madonsela said.

Muddy the waters in the election campaign'

The report has caused an outrage among South Africans and some critics have anticipated that Madonsela's report might cost President Zuma his political career.

DW correspondent Thuso Khumalo, who attended the Public Protector's briefing, said her findings may to some extent affect how people view Zuma as a credible presidential candidate. "But as the Public Protector has pointed it out that Zuma didn't intentionally influence this unnecessary expenditure so this will be part of Zuma's defense," Khumalo added.

There are just six weeks to go until to the May 7 presidential election in which President Zuma is planning to run for another term. His ruling ANC party has heavily criticized Madonsela's findings, denouncing them as a political report.

According to South Africa news Agency SAPA, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the release of the document close to 7 May would indicate an intention to "muddy the waters in the election campaign."

South African with President Zuma posts
The Nkandla scandal "may affect how people view Zuma as a credible presidential candidate"Image: Reuters

Service deliveryaffected

Our correspondent in South Africa Subry Govender says many South Africans have positively reacted to the findings and have hailed the public protector for her courage and refusal to be intimidated.

South African Ingrid Maritz told DW "the public protector is actually doing an amazing job, it is really awesome.” Another South African said “it is very important for a president to have security but unfair to spend so much for one house."

According to the Mandonsela findings, says funds misused for the upgrade were relocated from an inner city regeneration project. and "service delivery programs of the department of public works were negatively affected" as a consequence.

News of what has since become known as the Nkandla scandal was first revealed by South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper in 2009. Then the cost of the upgrade was estimated at 65 million rand ($6.1 million, 4.3 million euros) a figures which has swollen to more than 200 million rand in the meantime.

That is about eight times of the estimated cost of securing the home of the late Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president