Zuma turns his rural home into a $23m palace

President faces fresh controversy as public foots bill for a helipad, playground and bunker

A helipad with an underground tunnel linking it to the main residence; his and hers bathrooms and 10 houses for security guards are among recent upgrades to South African President Jacob Zuma's rural homestead. The Nkandla residence, in one of the poorest areas of the country, will soon have a playground, a visitors' centre and a bunker reached by twin elevators.

The bill runs to at least $23m (£14m) in taxpayers' money. Questions over the lavish spending in KwaZulu Natal province come as Mr Zuma faces a fight for his political life and widespread unrest over corruption in the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The President's aides have responded to questions over the cost of the project, dubbed "Zumaville" in the local media, by insisting that his family was paying for the bulk of costs. However, documents leaked to the City Press newspaper show that the public purse is covering 95 per cent.

When questioned by reporters this week, Mr Zuma insisted he was unaware of how much the upgrade was costing and referred queries to the Minister of Public Works. The minister said the newspaper that printed the documents should be prosecuted for revealing "state secrets".

Zumaville presents an uncomfortable contrast with the rest of Nkandla – one of the five poorest areas in KwaZulu Natal, with unemployment at 90 per cent.

The 70-year-old leader has been accused of being out of touch with ordinary South Africans and was criticised as "aloof" for his recent handling of the police killings of 34 striking platinum miners in Marikana. Wildcat strikes continue across the country, with the former ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema, calling for mines to be nationalised and Mr Zuma to be ousted.

Mr Zuma, who took power by toppling Thabo Mbeki four years ago, is expected to face a challenge from his Vice President, Kgalema Mothlanthe, at a party congress in December.

The President has been dogged by corruption charges throughout his political career. The money to purchase the Nkandla residence reportedly came from his business partner, Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of corruption and fraud in a case linked to a controversial arms deal. Mr Zuma, who was Vice President at the time, escaped related charges after taking the top office.

Since then, Mr Zuma and the ANC have been accused of escalating corruption. Mr Malema, who helped oust Mr Mbeki while a Zuma supporter, faces allegations of fraud. A small circle of ANC-linked black businessmen have amassed vast fortunes, with Cyril Ramaphosa – once a leadership contender – recently criticised for spending millions of dollars on a prize bull.

A rash of political murders has been blamed on local officials turning on each other in a scramble for money and patronage. In Mr Zuma's home province, 38 ANC members have been killed since February last year.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Junior Developer- CSS, HMTL, Bootstrap

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Junior Web Developer- CSS, HMTL

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz