It is high time we compared the property and home preferences of two of South Africa’s most controversial presidents: PW Botha and Jacob Zuma.
At the time of his death in 2006, Botha’s reputation was such that many agreed with labour federation Cosatu when it stated he was “the devil personified at the same level as Hitler”.
Zuma, on the other hand, is hounded constantly in and out of Parliament and has repeatedly been confronted with accusations of being a “criminal” and a “thief”.
Right now it is his home, Nkandla, that is proving to be one of the heaviest of multiple millstones around the president’s neck.
It could therefore be informative to compare what will become of Zuma’s retirement home with that in which Botha spent his final years.
Statistics involving Nkandla are to be found almost daily in the media – none more controversial than the disclosure that Nkandla upgrades cost a whopping R248 million – and still counting, as there are new plans for the near future.
But what about the cost of Botha’s home, Die Anker, in Wilderness near George? I visited it twice and it’s a fact that one can best categorise the house and area in which it is situated as upper middle class. Barbara Botha, PW’s widow, described it as a “normal suburban home”.
This is reflected in the price paid for PW’s house after his death: R4 million.
I asked Barbara Botha about security measures at the house.
She replied: “PW built a guardhouse at his own expense and at any given time there were not more than two or three guards on duty.”
She said the house was surrounded by “low vibracrete walls and the double gate was so low one could step over it”.
When I asked if the property boasted a fire pool, her reply was an instant “He, he!”
In an interview with PW, I put the direct question to him: “Are you an extremely wealthy man after 50 years in politics?”
His reply was: “I’ve never become wealthy. I’ve never become a member of the wealthy club.” He said he had bought the house, in which we were sitting at the time, through a building-society loan which he “paid off on a monthly basis”.
Barbara Botha said PW regarded it as pointless to have complicated and expensive security precautions, adding, “He feared no one and nothing.”
She said when he walked around in George, or elsewhere, he would be accompanied by just one guard and his driver.