Enough! says Zuma

2012-11-16 00:00

THEY say the best form of defence is attack, and President Jacob Zuma yesterday went into the National Assembly with his “umshini wam” blazing.

An aggrieved Zuma publicly took exception to being painted a “first class-corruption man” and to his family being “made a laughing stock” over the government’s multi-million rand upgrades to his private Nkandla residence

The Democratic Alliance, however, would have none of it, saying Zuma had tried to play the victim instead of “coming clean” about the project. He had tried to make the opposition feel guilty for holding him accountable “and glaringly avoided answering the important questions regarding this upgrade project”, it said.

Having earlier refused to allow an opposition motion of no confidence in Zuma to be debated, the ANC in Parliament made sure its MPs shored up the president during his once-a-quarter question time in the House yesterday. When Zuma entered the chamber, he received warm applause from the government benches and ANC supporters in the public gallery.

In his reply to a question from the DA’s Lindiwe Mazibuko, Zuma for the first time spoke publicly about the hurt and anger the close scrutiny of the upgrades to his Nkandla home had caused him.

His voice breaking at times, a livid Zuma said: “I feel aggrieved, I’m telling you for the first time.”

On DA leader Helen Zille’s abortive attempt to inspect Nkandla, he said members of political parties had marched to his home, taken pictures of it “and made a laughing stock of my family”.

“I take exception to this.”

The houses shown on television were the ones his family had built and for which he was still paying off a bond.

“I have never asked government to build a home for me, and it has not done so.”

Zuma told MPs a distinction should be drawn between the construction he and his family had done, and the security enhancements by the state which he had been told was necessary in terms of the National Key Points Act.

“My home has always been there. The problem was that I could not extend my home as our province had political violence and the houses were being burnt.

“When the violence ended, I built modern rondavels and we decided to extend and fence the house.

“My family has two homesteads. One is called Mpinda. We started by upgrading that residence and when it was almost done, we decided to move to renovate my other homestead where I live. That was when the department approached me to do a security upgrade. The contractors were already there.”

Some of the security features included fencing around the compound, as well as some bulletproof windows and a bunker, said Zuma.

On the astronomical prices bandied in the media for the upgrades, he said: “I do not know where that money went because it cannot be so much.”

Zuma said he had “been convicted, painted black, called the first-class corruption man on facts that are not tested”.

Mazibuko angrily followed up Zuma’s response, saying the fact that government was spending all that money on a security upgrade of Zuma’s private home was exactly what was at stake.

She asked whether the 31 new buildings — six of which cost R8 million each — the R1,5 million air-conditioning system, a R2,3 million lift to the bunker, the gyms and the visitor’s centre were part of the security enhancements.

With other members of parliament calling for Mazibuko to respect the president’s privacy, Mazibuko shot back saying: “When R250 million has been spent to upgrade privacy, that privacy ceases to be private.”

Zuma responded by saying these weren’t part of the home he had built.

While the ANC ensured a motion of no confidence debate on Zuma could not take place, opposition MPs still tried to sneak in the issue.

In another question about South Africa’s credit rating downgrade, Mazibuko asked Zuma why he should keep his job given that the country was unstable.

But Zuma said the unrest was not unique, with countries in Europe also experiencing protests. “This country is stable. Absolutely.”

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