, NKANDLA, South Africa, Nov 4 -South African opposition leader Hellen Zille was prevented on Sunday from visiting President Jacob Zuma’s private rural residence, at the centre of a row over a $29-million state-funded upgrade.
Police cited safety reasons for denying Zille and her six-member delegation passage to Zuma’s homestead, where they wanted to inspect how public money was used to fund the president’s private property.
Supporters of the ruling African National Congress formed a barricade near the home, which is a cluster of modern thatched-roof Zulu huts.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) had raised alarm over the public funding of the development, and said their visit was for oversight purposes.
Police had to prevent a group of some 500 ANC supporters from charging towards Zille’s delegation, while others laid on the road to prevent them from driving through.
Zille took to Twitter to vent her anger and post pictures of the property, located in KwaNxamalala village, north of the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.
“The police line blocking us from proceeding after they let ANC buses through,” read one of her tweets, accompanied by a picture.
She later went to a nearby police station to file a charge under the Gatherings Act – which regulates public gatherings and demonstrations – against the ANC supporters.
The supporters followed her to the station, shouting “go away”.
One of them was arrested for possession of an unlicenced firearm and will appear in court on Monday.
“We arrested a man for carrying an unlicenced weapon and discharging it in public,” said police spokesman Jay Naicker.
Zille later told journalists that by using public funds to built his home, Zuma had “lost a right to call it a private residence”.
“We never intended to go inside Zuma’s home, we only wanted to gather opposite his compound on a public road,” she said.
“One day we will look at it as a monument to the fight against corruption.”
Zuma’s office called Zille’s visit “mischievous” and said that “the DA’s conduct smacks of a disingenuous publicity gimmick”.