Nkandla compound firepool controversy

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The Nkandla compound in South Africa

At former South African President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla compound and private residence in South Africa, a swimming pool officially deemed as having a dual-purpose as a "firepool" was constructed.[1] It was claimed that the pool was built as a security feature and security upgrade,[2][3] as a source of water for firefighting. A controversy surrounded the construction of the pool.

Official South African documents refer to the pool as a "fire pool", with the rationale that the pool can also serve as a water reservoir for firefighting.[4][5] However, press reports that the "fire pool" resembles a normal swimming pool[4] led to media outlets scrutinizing the controversial pool construction[5] as a part of "questionable security renovations".[1]

The public response regarding the fire pool was "public condemnation",[5] accusations of corruption and cronyism, plus the posting of sarcastic tweets on Twitter about the situation.[4] In a report titled "Secure in Comfort",[6] Public Protector Thuli Madonsela concluded that Zuma should repay some of the improvements costs, having "benefited unduly" from them.[4] However, Nkosinathi Nhleko, South Africa's Police Minister, said that Zuma was not liable for any reimbursements.[2]

On 31 March 2016 the highest court in South Africa ruled that President Zuma violated the constitution when he failed to repay government money spent on his private home and it gave the treasury 60 days to determine how much he should repay.[7] On 1 April 2016 Zuma said "I respect the judgement and will abide by it".


The pool at the Nkandla compound was built for slightly over R 3.9 million[2][3] (around USD $320,838), which was a part of several improvements at the Nkandla compound to improve security that totaled around $23 million.[4]

Comparatively, construction of the same-sized pool has been given a sales quote of R 1.3 million for the pool itself, and a quote of R 1.8 million "with all the extras", which was provided from an anonymous pool builder based in Cape Town.[8] The total cost of the pool has been a point of contention among South African citizens and news media outlets.

Effectiveness for firefighting[edit]

Tests conducted by South African firefighters found the pool's use as a firepool to be a more suitable water source for firefighting compared to a fire hydrant.[9] The water pressure was tested, and it was concluded that the pool was best for firefighting because water suction from the pool was stronger compared to that from fire hydrants.[9] It was also stated that the water supply to Nkandla is inconsistent, with low pressure, and "often runs out."[9] A video was published demonstrating evidence to these claims.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Laing, Aislinn (November 29, 2013). "'Security' swimming pool lands South Africa's Zuma in hot water". The Telegraph. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Nhleko: Zuma not liable for Nkandla upgrades - As it happened". News24. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b "This is what Zuma's R4 million fire pool looks like". BusinessTech. 28 May 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e Wordsworth, Araminta (20 March 2014). "How the 'fire pool' at Nkandla could finally sink Jacob Zuma". National Post. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Smith, David (29 November 2013). "Jacob Zuma accused of corruption 'on a grand scale' in South Africa". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  6. ^ Public Protector of South Africa (19 March 2014). "Secure in Comfort" (PDF). Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  7. ^ Thamm, Marianne (31 March 2016). "Nkandla ConCourt ruling: President Zuma and National Assembly in breach of Constitution". Daily Maverick. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  8. ^ Stolley, Giordano (29 May 2015). "For R3.9m, Zuma could have had an Olympic-size firepool". News24. Retrieved 29 May 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  9. ^ a b c Capazorio, Bianca (28 May 2015). "Nkandla has erratic water supply - Nhleko defends Zuma's 'fire pool'". The Times. Retrieved 29 May 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  10. ^ "Watch: Video used to demonstrate utility of Zuma's fire-pool". The Times. 29 May 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2015.

Further reading[edit]