Who owns Zuma’s home?

2012-10-05 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma does not own the land on which his Nkandla compound is built — and Public Works is in the midst of a deal to take up the lease, potentially for as little as R1 000 a year.

This means that not only will the Zuma compound be bankrolled by the taxpayer to the tune of R203 million, but so will the land on which it stands.

The compound — which, City Press revealed, is being upgraded with a R203 million investment by the Department of Public Works — is on communal land owned by the Ingonyama Trust and is about 24 km south of Nkandla town centre in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The trust is headed by King Goodwill Zwelithini and manages about 32% of all land in the province on behalf of the state for the benefit of its occupants.

The disclosure also challenges the justification of spending on the property by Public Works in the face of a public outcry over the splurge.

The department cited the Ministerial Handbook’s rules allowing spending on the president’s “private” residence.

The handbook defines a private residence as a “privately owned house” and says only R100 000 worth of security-related upgrades may be made to office bearers’ private residences; the rest should be for the politician’s account.

The National Key Points Act — also cited to justify the spending — also requires the owner of the property to pay for security out of his own pocket, unless the minister of Police orders otherwise.

Judge Jerome Ngwenya, the chairperson of the trust, confirmed that the Ingonyama Trust held title to the land on which Zuma’s residences stand, and that it had given permission for the development to take place.

Ngwenya could not reveal the specific conditions of the lease for Zuma’s compound, but he said the Department of Public Works usually paid the trust R1 000 per year in rental for similar premises of schools, clinics and other public buildings under its custodianship. The leases were usually valid for 40 or 99 years.

He said prior to the arrangement currently being finalised with the Department of Public Works, that Zuma had held tenure rights to the Nkandla homestead in his personal capacity.

But Zuma has never declared owning the tenure in his legally required public declaration of interests, despite occupying the property from at least 2000.

Public Works already maintains three state-owned official presidential residences in Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban.

Several legal experts told Media24 Investigations that if Zuma does not hold title to the land, the beneficiary of the massive upgrades to the Nkandla compound would ultimately be the Ingonyama Trust, as land held by the trust cannot be sold.

Professor Themba Msimang, an IFP MP with similar occupational rights to land in the Nkandla area, described the situation as “a big problem”.

“He hasn’t got title to the land; it’s communally owned, and that means that if you are no longer needed for staying there, [the land] reverts back to Ingonyama Trust and is given to the next occupant. It’s a big question mark, especially for someone approaching the end of his term,” Msimang said.

Mario Oriano-Ambrosini, an IFP MP who was involved in drafting the legislation that set up the trust, said the situation ought to have been remedied by the Communal Land Rights Act, which provided for traditional land to be transferred to occupants, but the act was declared unconstitutional in 2010 and the process has been placed on hold.

He said because leases with the Ingonyama Trust could be registered with the deeds office, they could be sold on and Zuma could be regarded as the owner.

There is no record of a deed registered in the president’s name in KZN, according to online deeds office records.

Requests for comment from the Presidency, Department of Public Works and Police Ministry went unanswered.

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