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Media’s Nkandla access a ‘breakthrough’: R2K

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Government’s decision to afford the media access to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead represents a move in the right direction for transparency and accountability, according to the Right 2 Know campaign’s, Dale McKinley. Journalists from a number of media houses were given an official tour of Zuma’s residence on Sunday, with a firm focus on the controversial ‘security upgrades’ that have cost taxpayers more than R200 million.

It follows a similar tour of the compound by the Nkandla ad hoc committee last week. At the time journalists were afforded only limited access to Nkandla, specifically the section of the property housing 21 chalets for Zuma’s security staff. This led to criticism from the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef), which demanded access on the grounds that the matter was one of major public interest.

With government eventually caving in to the constant media requests, McKinley said it was becoming progressively more difficult for Zuma to cast a veil of secrecy around his controversial homestead.

“Essentially there was no more hiding. Even ANC politicians and MP’s have had to admit that there was wastage of money,” he admitted.

With the public for the first time given inside access to the facility through the eyes of the media, the consensus has been that the reported upgrades fail to live up to their R256million price tag. McKinley said this was likely to spur public anger, even more so at the attempts by national police minister, Nkosinathi Nhleko to rationalise them as necessities.

“People aren’t going to take it seriously and I think that’s the biggest damage; legitimacy. There’s been so much lying going on and so many attempts to cover it up, but now that dam wall is bursting and people are saying ‘look, you’ve taken us for a ride here,'” he said.

Whilst Nkandla’s doors may have finally opened, there were some media houses that were not invited to attend the walkabout. The snub comes on the back of government publicly voicing concern over certain publications and journalists it feels holds something of an agenda against the ruling party.

“I think they are playing their cards, and again it is a big tactical mistake. You don’t have to like what the media says. You can contest what they say, but when you begin to start picking and choosing…you’re showing your political immaturity,” he suggested.

McKinley also suspected that with the media seemingly making grounds on the Nkandla saga, Zuma was being pushed into a corner where he would have to take accountability, and ‘pay back the money’.

“He has to realise that he can’t be the president and ask for our trust and ask to lead the country, then go break that trust and when people call him out on it he is not willing to face the music,” he added. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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