THE cost of the expansion of President Jacob Zuma’s family homestead in Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal, estimated at R65 million last year, has rocketed to almost R200 million, a source close to the project has revealed.
The source said the cost soared because of additions to the architectural plan, unforeseen expenses as a result of transporting building material to this remote rural area and rising construction costs.Although Zuma is expected to be financially responsible for part of the building expenses, the taxpayer is expected to foot the largest chunk of the bill, said the source
According to the Mail & Guardian’s original report on the project last year, the expansion will turn the presidential homestead into a sprawling precinct that will include a police station, helicopter pad, military clinic, visitors’ centre, parking lot with parking for at least 40 vehicles and at least three smaller houses that will serve as staff quarters.
Weekend Witness has learnt that other extensions that added to the soaring cost include fencing and the construction of roads within the precinct.
Phase one of the project comprises two houses — a double-storey and a guesthouse — which are expected to be completed shortly as soon as builders complete the roof-thatching.
Locals in Nkandla would not comment openly about the project. Those who spoke to Weekend Witness expressed their excitement about what was going on in their area.
Said an elderly woman who spoke on condition of anonymity, “Having a president as a neighbour has already started benefiting us as we now have running water and electricity.
“We hope this new development will help attract other development projects in the area, especially with regard to job opportunities for our youth,”
The views of people at a local shop were generally that although the Zuma homestead is like a mansion in a sea of poverty, local people have not lost hope that one day the government will provide them with subsidised housing.
Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya referred all inquiries about the expansion to the Public Works Department (PWD), saying it is handling the project.
The response from Thami Mchunu, spokesperson for the PWD to a list of detailed questions (see box) was that the department “is not in a position to answer any questions related to the accommodation of the president of the country”.
“The accommodation for the executive falls under the ambit of the National Key Points Act* and we therefore cannot provide any details as this can compromise the safety and security of the executive.”
* The National Key Points Act was first promulgated in 1980 and amended as the National Key Points and Installations Act in 2007. Like its predecessor, it seeks to protect places and areas deemed to be of strategic national interest against sabotage or other forms of attack.
• Are projected costs above R65 million as reported?
• If they have soared, what are the reasons behind that and what is the new figure?
• How much is going to be spent by President Zuma on the whole project and how much will be footed by the state?
• Can you confirm that the whole project is done on behalf of the Public Works Department? If so, how is President Zuma going to reimburse the state after the completion of the project?
• When is phase one of the project going to be completed and when will the entire project be finished?
• Are there any other developments projected for the area?