Matshidiso Madia Matshidiso Madia

The Democratic Alliance spent Sunday the 4th of November 2012 trending on social media platforms. The DA shared the Trendsmap with President Jacob Zuma and key words such as homestead, village and R248 Million. The interest in these topics had to do with the DA’s planned inspection of the president’s controversial homestead in rural KwaZulu Natal. That property is currently undergoing a R248 Million make-over.

At the heart of the matter is a piece of land, dotted with huts, nestled along the hilltops of Kwazulu Natal’s Uthungulu district. The area known for its high levels of poverty, HIV infections and a rising number of orphaned children, can’t hide from local and international speculation.

Most importantly, the area is known as being the home of President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma has been haunted by questions about his homestead: Where has the money come from? Why is so much being spent on Nkandla? How and when did the area become a national key point? Is this legal? Why did the budget for this project jump from R6.4 million in 2010 to R248 million in just two years? Is it necessary to renovate Nkandla, when two of Zuma’s official homes in Pretoria and Cape Town, are also due to be renovated?

The history of Nkandla’s development

Developments around Nkandla go as far back as the 1990s. Back then the focus was on tarred roads, access to clean water, electricity, bridges, houses and irrigated community gardens. Fast track to 2012 and it’s not just that there are plans to turn the little hilltop village into a luxurious compound that’s ruffled people’s feathers, it’s the happenings at the privately-owned Zuma homestead.

People are also concerned about a report detailing the renovations, which include 31 buildings (each costing about R8 Million), elevators, bulletproof windows, underground bunkers, a helicopter pad and a VIP residence.

It’s not just the Democratic Alliance which seems to be angered by the idea that millions in taxpayers’ money is funding the lavish revamp of the president home. Ordinary citizens are not only muttering away about ‘Nkandlagate’, they’re also voicing their opinions on public platforms. The public protector has undertaken to investigate the project and the media refuses to back down from asking questions about the money used to renovate the president’s home.

On the defence

Thousands of the president’s supporters went to Nkandla on Sunday to stand in solidarity with Zuma and to get the DA to back off. They prevented Zille and her entourage from getting close to Nkandla and accused the opposition party of racism and of wanting black people to continue living in poverty.

Most of the presidency ministers are steering clear of the Nkandla issue and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan avoided any mention of the construction in his Medium Term Budget address. But the Department of Public Works and its Minister Thulas Nxesi have been defending the decision to spend R248 Million on the homestead, saying the development of the compound is not unique and it meet international standards.
Although the president has said he has no idea how much renovations at his home will cost, he might find himself asking whether allegations that 95% of the renovations came straight out of taxpayers’ pockets will have an impact in his role as the country’s leader or not.