S Africa prez under fire for costly house upgrade

New security fences. A medical clinic. Fire-fighting services added for a helipad. Plus 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.

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

Zuma’s standing has been shaken by the recent police killings of 34 striking platinum miners.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 Zuma should not be allowed another term in office.

The government has refused to disclose the precise cost of the work on Zuma’s countryside home. Local reports say the upgrades cost about 200 million rand ($23 million). Zuma said at a breakfast meeting Thursday that he does not know cost of the work, that it was approved by the concerned ministry.

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