SOUTH African president Jacob Zuma has been told to repay millions of taxpayers' money spent on "security" upgrades to his private home, which included a swimming pool and an amphitheatre.
The government spent more than 200 million rand (€15.5m) to revamp Mr Zuma's rural home, justifying it as necessary security for a head of state.
However, Thuli Madonsela, the country's public protector, reportedly found that the president derived "substantial personal benefit" from so-called "security upgrades" to the compound in Nkandla in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, many of which had nothing to do with security.
A swimming pool, visitors' centre, amphitheatre, cattle kraal, marquee area, extensive paving and new houses for relocated relatives were all improperly included in the security upgrade at "enormous cost" to the taxpayer, Ms Madonsela is said to have found.
Details of her report, entitled 'Opulence on a Grand Scale', were leaked to South Africa's 'Mail & Guardian' newspaper just weeks after security ministers took Ms Madonsela to court to delay its release, citing "security concerns".
In court papers, she claimed that she had encountered "very strong" resistance to her investigation from the police, public works, state security and defence ministers who, she said, tried to curtail her access to relevant documents and stop her attending "important" meetings.
If backed up by the release of the report, the revelations could prove deeply damaging to the ruling ANC's chances of securing its hoped-for 60pc of the vote at next year's elections. The 'Mail & Guardian' cited the report as finding that Mr Zuma violated the executive code of ethics by failing to protect state resources and misleading parliament by saying he and his family had paid for any renovations not related to security.
Ms Madonsela is alleged to have blamed the "uncontrolled creep" in costs largely on the involvement of Mr Zuma's personal architect, whom he introduced to the Public Works Department despite him having, as Ms Madonsela's report said, "no security expertise, let alone clearance". No one from Mr Zuma's office could be reached for comment.
Ms Madonsela has condemned the leak as "unethical and unlawful".
A government statement said that ministers set more store by the government's own investigation, the full results of which have never been made public for "security reasons". (© Daily Telegraph, London)