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South Africa’s Opposition Demands President Pay for Home Renovations

FILE - South African President Jacob Zuma's private residence in Nkandla, some 178 kilometres north of Durban. South Africa's government on December 19, 2013 cleared President Jacob Zuma of any wrongdoing during a controversial $20-million revamp at his p

Although South Africa’s ruling African National Congress Party (ANC) exonerated President Jacob Zum of having to repay costly renovations to his private home, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party has threatened legal action against Zuma, the Speaker of Parliament, and the Ministry of Police.

The party wants them to accept the report by the Public Protector, the country’s anti-corruption body, which found that Zuma benefited unduly in using $23 million in taxpayer funds and that he should repay the cost of the non-security aspects of the renovation.

James Selfe, chairperson of the DA’s federal executive, was part of the parliamentary committee that went to see the upgrades, and is among those who thinks the president should repay the money.

“We who served on the committee of parliament that went to see those upgrades believed that [the] expenditure was irregular and that it substantially enhanced the value of his private residence. And, in line with the Public Protector, we believe that the president has the responsibility to repay a reasonable proportion of those costs,” he said.

Selfe hopes that the majority ANC party will accept the minority report, which is in line with the findings of the Public Protector’s report calling Zuma to repay the cost of the non-security aspects of the renovation of his private residence.

“In the event that they do not do so, we will tomorrow (Wednesday) be serving legal papers on the president, on the speaker of the National Assembly, and the Ministry of Police to force them to accept the remedial action that was ordered by the Public Protector, which was that the president had to pay back the cost of the non-security aspect of the upgrade to his private home,” Selfe said.

The majority ANC party had initially described a swimming pool added to the building as a “fire pool” that could serve as a place for firefighters to get water. But, Selfe said, there are no pumps anywhere available in the vicinity of the president’s home that could be used to employ the water that is in the tank to fight a fire.

“And the fire chief of that municipality told me personally that, by the time they got there, if there was a fire, it would have destroyed all the buildings. So, we regard this thing as a complete chimera. It is a swimming pool. It was intended to be a swimming pool. It has no force that it takes in terms of fighting fire at the president’s private residence,” Selfe said.

He said it is the job of members of parliament to educate South Africans that what went on was “unconstitutional, if not criminal”.

Butty interview with James Selfe
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