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What upgrades would you do with R246m?

20 Mar 2014

Imagine spending R246 million on home renovations... what could you do with that amount of money?  

The damning evidence in Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's Nkandla report on the upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's private residence using taxpayers' money begs the ethical question of how our first citizen could have ''tacitly accepted" renovations on such a grand scale.

The initial project, which involved security upgrades to the Nkandla property, was only supposed to cost R27 million. That is still a lot of money when you consider what you could do with a budget like that, or how many homes could be built to house families in need.

The damning evidence in Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's  Nkandla report on the upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's private residence using taxpayers' money begs the ethical question of how our first citizen could have ''tacitly accepted" renovations on such a grand scale.

The President after all is a public servant. He is placed in power by the people who vote for him and he should stand accountable for his actions and lead by example. This excess, which President Zuma and his family "improperly benefited from", according to the report, "constitutes opulence on a grand scale" said Ms Madonsela.

The fire pool turned into a swimming pool, amphitheatre, cattle kraal, chicken run and visitors' centre were apparently not his fault. The report found that on almost every level officials and parties involved did not perform correctly, resulting in a series of botched jobs. 

Building costs can easily run away without a clued-up project manager and proper budget, a lesson for anyone embarking on a large home renovation project. But how could our President have not known what was going on at his own home? The renovations that were not part of the security upgrade could not have been added unnoticed.

Even the fire pool transformed into luxury swimming pool that cost R2.8 million was not necessary in the end as an additional reservoir was built to provide water in case of emergency. Ms Madonsela pointed out that former president Nelson Mandela didn’t have a pool at his home.

President Zuma has four official presidential residences, in Pretoria and Durban and two in Cape Town, with state-of-the-art security. Heads of state in other countries generally live in the official residence during their term of office, which points to why our President doesn't spend more time in his state residences.

The President has been advised by Ms Madonsela to pay back monies not spent on security measures, that should have been for his personal account, but were paid by the state.

How much do you really think a state-of-the-art security system should cost and what would you do with R246 million? 

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