South African media have defied a government warning and splashed pictures of President Jacob Zuma’s lavish private home which was
controversially revamped using £12m of taxpayers money.
State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele had on Thursday warned media to stop publishing photographs or footage of Zuma’s rural home, arguing that doing so was in violation of security laws.
But newspapers ignored the warning and yesterday splashed on their front pages pictures of Zuma’s lavishly-refurbished home which comes with a swimming pool, helipad, tuckshop and even a football pitch.
‘No one including those in the media, is allowed to take images and publicise images even pointing where the possible security features are,’ Mr Cwele said.
‘It is not done anywhere. We have not seen the images of the White House showing where the security features are. It is not done in any democracy,’ he added
The Times had on its front page an aerial picture of the thatched-roof compound under the headline ‘So, arrest us’.
The Star also had a picture of the homestead, but with a red X imposed across it and a caption ‘Look away! What ministers don’t want you to see”.
The editors’ association said it was ‘disappointed and shocked’ at Thursday’s order.
It vowed to continue publishing the pictures, ‘not with the intention to endanger the life of anyone, but to continue our role as watchdogs of public expenditure,’ said Adriaan Basson of the South African National Editors’ Forum.
‘We believe it is of immense public interest to keep on reporting this grotesque public expenditure of over R200 million [Dh72.4 million] on the private residence of a sitting president,’ said Mr Basson.
The government’s decision to spend over £12.4 million ($20 million) of taxpayer money to revamp Zuma’s private property has 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.
It has spent months fighting to keep secret details of public spending on the enormous private estate – dubbed ‘Zumaville’ – being built in President Zuma’s home region of KwaZulu Natal.
However leaks to South African media have already revealed that £12.4 million of public money has so far been poured into the massive upgrade project