Zuma jets off to Nigeria as Nkandla report set to be released

2015-05-28 11:37
President Jacob Zuma.

President Jacob Zuma. (Liza van Deventer, Netwerk24)

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WATCH: President Zuma jokes about Nkandla in Parliament

2015-05-28 08:54

Zuma spent about five minutes mocking opposition MPs, who frequently raised questions about his Nkandla home. Watch. WATCH

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma will jet off to Nigeria for president-elect Muhammadu Buhari's inauguration on the same day that the police minister's report on the R246m worth of security upgrades to his private home in Nkandla is expected to be released.

Zuma's trip will be a ''working visit'' and besides Buhari's inaugurations, it will also give the two presidents the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual concern, his office said on Thursday.

His deputy Cyril Ramaphosa will already have left for London for his own working visit there.

Briefing

The Nkandla report was supposed to have been released at a media briefing on Wednesday night, but it was cancelled with Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko's spokesperson Musa Zondi explaining that it must be tabled in Parliament first.

That is expected to take place on Thursday, with the media briefing rescheduled for Thursday afternoon.

The presidency's Harold Maloka said he could not say whether Zuma would have left for Nigeria by the time the report was tabled and released.

''The president is leaving today. The two are not linked at all,'' said Maloka, when asked if Zuma would be in the country for the long-awaited release on whether he should pay back portions which are not related to his security.

'Just a house'

On Wednesday, Zuma dismissed continuing controversy about his homestead, saying it was “just a house'' and that people are fixating on it.

“You can’t sit and finish a year discussing the house of one man. Just a house,” he said, during his reply to the debate on the presidency’s budget vote speech.

“Nor can you take allegations and make them judgements. It’s never done. Democracy takes time, you know,” he said.

“Some people who could not pronounce Nkandla, they’ve now learned.

"Nkandla, Nkandla,” he said during an address peppered with chuckles, laughter and exclamations.

Tempers have frayed in Parliament, police have been called in and MPs evicted amid refrains of ''pay back the money'' as the Nkandla controversy grows.

Bilateral relations with Nigeria

If the report is released as planned, Zuma will be fulfilling presidential duties in Nigeria such as enhancing the ''good'' bilateral relations between the two countries, and strengthening economic ties.

''President Zuma also congratulated the people of Nigeria for conducting a peaceful, transparent, credible, free and fair election as declared by the Independent National Election Commission of Nigeria.''

His attendance at the inauguration comes after a fraught period between the two. Nigeria called two of its high ranking diplomats in South Africa for consultations during xenophobic violence in South Africa in April, and in February, after a frustrating delay, the remaining 11 bodies of the 85 South Africans killed in a building collapse there last September were brought home.

In background, the presidency said diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1994, with the creation of a bi-national commission in 1999. Thirty four bilateral agreements had been signed by the two countries.

Total trade had increased from R15 billion in 2009 to R42 billion in 2013.

South African exports to and imports from Nigeria from January to December 2014 stood at R10.5 billion and R55.7 billion, respectively.

The presidency said Nigeria enjoys a surplus trade balance with South Africa, which is attributable to huge quantities of oil imports from Nigeria. Meanwhile South Africa exports vehicles, aircraft and vessels, iron and steel products, machinery and equipment and plastics and rubber.

South African companies who have interests in Nigeria include MTN, Shoprite and RMB bank.

Zuma will be accompanied by Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Co-operation.

Ramaphosa left on Wednesday night and his programme includes a fundraising dinner for the Adopt-a-School Foundation in South Africa.

Ramaphosa is expected to return on Saturday.

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  jacob zuma  |  nkandla upgrade

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