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2012-12-09 10:00

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First full view of the massive complex that has South Africans up in arms

There is only one way to get a full view of President Jacob Zuma’s palatial private home at Nxamalala village near Nkandla in Zululand: from the air.

From the P15 – the new road linking Nkandla to Kranskop and passing through Nxamalala – there is only a one-dimensional, partial view of the Zuma complex, which recently underwent a R248 million “security upgrade”, courtesy of the taxpayer.

So City Press decided to take to the air this week to photograph the ever-expanding Zuma compound.

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi disputed the R248 million figure this week, but wouldn’t say what the state had spent on Zuma’s private residence.

Zuma told Parliament that he and his family paid for his new houses.

Construction is estimated to have cost the president between R10 million and R20 million.

Several critics have pointed out that Zuma would struggle to pay for this alone, given his more than R2 million annual salary and his history of bad debt.

This was amplified by the Mail & Guardian on Friday, which published the previously unreleased 2006 KPMG forensic report into Zuma’s financial affairs.

The report had not been released after Zuma’s corruption charges were controversially dropped in 2009.

The security perimeter fence, which encloses the family complex and the several dozen buildings constructed as part of the security upgrade, is set slightly away from the road.

The complex flows around and up the hillside, with several features, including a helipad, sitting at a level where they can’t be seen from below.

Other buildings, including the more than 20 rondavel-style houses for Zuma’s personnel, are tucked away from view by a bend in the road.

So are the two Astroturf football pitches on the Kranskop-facing side of the estate.

The topography of the area means that there is no hill or high ground from which to view or photograph the entire complex.

This week, we shot pictures which, for the first time, give readers a chance to view the complex, which in the past few years has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings in the early 1990s, when Zuma returned from exile.

Flying west from Eshowe towards Kranskop, the complex looks more like a game lodge than someone’s house.

It stretches across the hillside, with a circle of houses used by Zuma and his wives at the centre.

The growth of the compound has been astounding. When we set foot inside the complex in 2006, there was a simple wire fence around the houses used by the family and a single police post.

By the time of the 2009 inauguration party at Nxamalala, there was still little in the way of security.

According to official Public Works documentation, construction started towards the end of 2009.

Around the family houses, there are several large buildings believed to be the clinic and gymnasium built for the family’s use, and a reception facility for visitors.

All the buildings have the same thatched roofs and are painted in the same colour.

There are no visible entrances for the bunker and the underground parking areas.

Since City Press first exposed the massive amounts of public money spent on the estate by the department of public works through its prestige portfolio, there has been a discussion about how best to illustrate what the money was spent on.

There were no pre-existing aerial pictures and all the satellite images available predated Nkandlagate.

Although Zuma’s office and the department of public works have maintained that the residence was indeed declared a national key point, the police have so far refused to provide proof of this.

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