Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu on Saturday blasted the South African government for humiliating the country by allowing the president to get away with spending R246m of taxpayers’ money on home improvement work.
“When the South African government denied His Holiness the Dalai Lama a visa to attend the Nobel Laureates Summit in Cape Town last year, I called them a lickspittle bunch,” said Tutu in a statement.
“Our police minister’s performance in clearing the President of any responsibility for the Nkandla spending, gave new meaning to the word.”
The Public Protector in 2014 found that President Jacob Zuma had “unduly benefited” from the work on his private residence at Nkandla – which also included a cattle enclosure, amphitheatre and visitors’ centre – and recommended that he repay some of the money.
But Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko said on Thursday that an investigation found that the president is not liable to repay any of the public funds spent as the improvements were in fact security features.
The swimming pool was actually a “firepool” needed to fight any blaze at the mainly-thatched compound, while the cattle enclosure and chicken run were necessary to prevent the animals tripping motion detectors as they roamed about, the minister concluded.
But Tutu dismissed the minister’s conclusions.
“Instead of setting a good example, our public representatives are humiliating themselves, our country and our people by trying to defend the indefensible,” said Tutu.
He added that the minister’s decision to dismiss the Public Protector’s report “bodes particularly ill for the future of good governance”.
“It is unconscionable to spend hundreds of millions of rand on the president’s spurious ‘security’ needs,” said Tutu.
“The power of the government to manipulate justice comes at great cost to our reputation, our development potential and our hard-won self-belief.
“I am deeply saddened,” added the Archbishop, who is regarded internationally as a moral authority.