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S.Africa's Zuma benefited from security revamp deal

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma personally benefitted from the controversial security renovations at his private home and must repay the state, according to a watchdog damning report leaked in a local newspaper on Friday.

Government has spent more than 200 million rand ($20 million) to revamp Zuma's rural home, justifying it as necessary security for a head of state.

But a government watchdog has found that some of the so-called security upgrades were "improperly" weaved into the project at "enormous cost" to the taxpayer, the weekly Mail & Guardian reported.

A swimming pool, an outdoor amphitheatre, visitors' waiting area, a cattle enclosure, houses for the president's relatives and "extensive" paving, were some of the extras that did not necessarily fit into security features, according to a yet-unpublished report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

South Africa's public protector investigates reported abuse of power by public officials, publishes the findings, and recommends prosecution where needed.

Madonsela wants Zuma to explain himself to parliament and repay the extra and non-security related expenses, the paper said citing the report.

The improvements at Zuma's house were "acutely" higher than those done at past presidents' properties, said the report.

The most expensive renovations so far had been at the house of South Africa's first black leader Nelson Mandela, which cost 32 million rands ($3.2 million).

She also said "genuine" security issues such as the two helipads, a clinic and housing for the police protection unit at the thatched-roof compound in Nkandla in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal were "excessive". Above all, they could have been located in a nearby town to also benefit local residents, the report said.

The public protector's office declined to comment on the newspaper's story on Friday, but last week Madonsela said four ministers seen as Zuma's loyalists, had tried to vet her report by approaching the court to instruct her on what to "throw out and what to retain".

The government's decision to spend large sums of taxpayer money on Zuma's private property sparked public anger amid an economic crunch in a country where 10 million people live on social grants and many have only tin shacks for their homes.

The exact cost of the upgrades remains unclear. Two weeks ago, a parliament panel put it at 206 million rand ($20.2 million), then a few days later a group of ministers upped the figure by 208 million rand. The Mail & Guardian cited the report as putting the costs at 215 million rand.

Zuma's office did not respond to phone calls and an email seeking comment.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131129/safricas-zuma-benefited-security-revamp-deal