Zuma must repay ‘unlawful’ upgrades on home: ombudsman

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PRETORIA (AFP) – South Africa’s public ombudsman said Wednesday that some of the $23 million taxpayer-funded refurbishments at President Jacob Zuma’s luxurious residence were unlawful and ordered him to repay part of the cost.

“Some of these measures can be legitimately classified as unlawful and the acts involved constitute improper conduct and maladministration,” Thuli Madonsela said in a much-awaited report released just weeks ahead of the May presidential election.

The scathing report, which also implicated several ministers, found that Zuma violated the executive ethics code by failing to protect state resources.

The ombudsman ordered that Zuma “pay a reasonable percentage of the cost of the measures” which are not related to security at his sprawling homestead.

However the exact amount to be reimbursed was not disclosed and Madonsela said it would be up to the Treasury to determine a figure.

Zuma’s residence in the rural southern village of Nkandla cost South African taxpayers 246 million rand ($23 million) in a project touted as a security upgrade.

Some additions include a visitors’ centre, swimming pool, an amphitheatre and even a chicken coop.

“The expenditure incurred by the state… went beyond what was reasonably required for the president’s security, was unconsciously excessive and caused a misappropriation of funds,” the report said.

Madonsela also ordered Zuma to “reprimand the ministers involved for the appalling manner in which the Nkandla project was handled and state funds were abused”.

Zuma of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is running for re-election in South Africa’s May 7 vote.

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