- Associated Press - Sunday, October 14, 2012

JOHANNESBURG — New security fences. A medical clinic. Firefighting services added for a helipad.

Those and other upgrades, all for South African President Jacob Zuma’s home to the tune of more than $23 million in taxpayer money.

And all for his rural private residence.

Mr. Zuma is embroiled in a controversy over the costly additions to his private home in a country where millions still lack decent homes, running water, electrical power and adequate access to health and education services.

The revelations of the renovation of Mr. Zuma’s rural compound in KwaZulu-Natal, dubbed “Zumaville” in the local press, come before the ruling African National Congress‘ December conference, where Mr. Zuma seeks to be reappointed as the party’s leader, and therefore its candidate for president in the 2014 national election.

Mr. Zuma’s standing already has been shaken by the recent police killings of 34 striking platinum miners in the continuing wave of ongoing wildcat strikes. He is widely seen by striking miners as aloof to their concerns that they’re not paid enough for the difficult and dangerous work they perform.

Firebrand politician Julius Malema, ousted this year as ANC Youth League leader, says Mr. Zuma should not be allowed another term in office.

The government has refused to disclose the precise cost of the work on Mr. Zuma’s countryside home. Local reports say the upgrades cost about $23 million.

Mr. Zuma said at a breakfast meeting Thursday that he does not know how much the work will cost, that it was authorized by the Ministry of Works and was motivated by security concerns.

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said last week that work on Mr. Zuma’s residence was similar to that done on those of other South African presidents.

High security fences have been erected, roads upgraded, a medical clinic added and firefighting services developed for the helipad at the compound, according to the South African Press Association (SAPA).

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Deputy Public Works Minister Jeremy Cronin could not confirm the cost, but said the matter would be investigated for any “inexplicable overruns on costs,” according to SAPA.

Some critics say the ANC party that was once led by anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela is overly focused on political power with too little attention being accorded to the country’s black poor.

Mr. Zuma’s presidency has been “marked by political problems, most notably a radical decline in the ANC’s credibility.

Mr. Zuma’s own actions also have stripped the office he holds of dignity,” wrote Pallo Jordan, a former minister of arts and culture, in an article published in BusinessDay newspaper. Whoever the ANC membership elects in December will have set about “restoring the ANC’s dented credibility and dignity to the office of the president.”

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