Dec 04 2009 09:17 President Jacob Zuma is expanding his remote family homestead at Nkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal for a whopping price of R65-million -- and the taxpayer is footing the largest chunk of the bill. The expansion will turn the presidential homestead into a sprawling precinct that will include a police station, helicopter pad, military clinic, visitors centre, parking lot with parking for at least 40 vehicles and at least three smaller houses that will serve as staff quarters. See video footage of the development Phase one of the project, comprising two houses, one of them a double-storey structure, and a guesthouse, is already under way. Given that state money is involved, how future presidents will benefit from the development remains unclear. Government insisted this week that it has no record of such a development and no hand in any of Zumas personal property endeavours. Shortly before the Mail & Guardians deadline the presidency released a statement changing its tune. The statement reads: The Zuma family planned before the elections to extend the Nkandla residence, and this is being done at own cost. No government funding will be utilised for the construction work. Outside the perimeter of the Zuma household, a few metres from the house, the State is to undertake construction work in line with the security and medical requirements relating to Heads of State in the Republic. The security services have to construct accommodation facilities for their staff that attend to the President, erect a helipad to ensure safe landing for the Presidential helicopter and a clinic as per medical requirements. Public works spokersperson Koketso Sachane said on Wednesday: Please note that there is no work or extension project taking place at President Jacob Zumas homestead at Nkandla. The presidency also claimed no knowledge of such a project, saying that Nkandla is Zumas private home and therefore no business of the state. It accused the M&G of setting out to embarrass the president by publishing a story. Further attempts to obtain comment from communications head Vusi Mona were futile. On Thursday December 3 Mona promised to consult Zuma and get back to the M&G, but he did not respond to calls later in the day. However, the M&G understands that a meeting to discuss the project was held at Nkandla on August 2, attended by the surgeon general, Vejay Ramlakan, and a representative of the department of public works. Ramlakan, through his spokesperson, referred all queries to the presidency because it is happening at the presidents homestead, so it is his matter to comment on. When the M&G visited Nkandla last weekend, an earth-mover was excavating the ground next to the existing homestead to prepare for the construction of the initial phase of the project. Two cement mixers and two water tanks were on site as well as construction offices where the architectural plans for the construction are kept. About 12 construction workers were working overtime to ensure the project gets off the ground. The site was devoid of company signage. The contractor told the M&G the three new houses would cost R4,1-million and would be funded by Zuma in his personal capacity. However, this was only phase one of the project. The total cost of the development will run to R65-million, according to sources closely involved with it. It is R65-million, but it will probably be more in the end. You know how it goes with building, the prices always go up and up, one said. There is no time frame for the completion of the development. The M&G understands part of the reasoning behind the mammoth extension is to enhance the homesteads capacity to host VIP guests and their retinues. On election day this year former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo -- in the country as an election monitor -- popped into Zumas home after a helicopter flight. More of such visits are expected in the future. A military source said there was also a need to extend the homesteads capacity to house Zumas health and security staff, most of whom stay in Eshowe when Zuma is at Nkandla. A source said: This is cumbersome in terms of response time, so the idea was to build a bigger facility to house all the support staff in Nkandla when the president is there. The houses are apparently being built to accommodate two wives currently living at Nxamalala, MaNtuli Zuma and MaMbhija Zuma. The complex already includes a house for his first wife, Sizakhele, built in 2000 shortly after he became deputy president. Sizakhele uses the main house with various relatives, mostly women and children, who live in rondavel-type structures around her. A silver E-class Mercedes and a white Toyota Prado 4x4 are parked outside and serve as the first ladys transport. During the corruption trial of Zumas former financial adviser Schabir Shaik in 2004, the state produced evidence that alleged bribes flowing from French arms firm Thales helped finance the building of the homestead.