DEPUTY Public Works Minister Jeremy Cronin has dismissed accusations against President Jacob Zuma over the upgrade of his Nkandla homestead, saying it stemmed from ANC election politicking ahead of Mangaung.
"Development is happening across the country," Cronin said. "It is just wrong to divert all the attention to what is happening in Nkandla."
Cronin was handing over a new school building to Gulandoda Primary and Junior Secondary schools in Ngcobo on Friday.
His department and the Independent Development Trust (IDT) built the R10-million complex to make use of alternative technology and energy.
He said Zuma had proclaimed that development should be directed to all the people of South Africa.
"The president said we managed to build amazing airports and stadiums for the 2010 World Cup. He said everyone should feel part of the new South Africa. That can only happen when everyone has access to infrastructure," Cronin said.
Zuma has been accused of prioritising the development of his birthplace after it emerged that about R238-million of taxpayers' money would be spent upgrading his Nkandla homestead.
But Cronin said the criticism was linked to Mangaung: "The upgrades are done because he [Zuma] requires security. We are doing it because he requires protection as the president".
"Issues like these mustn't be clouded by issues of Mangaung."
Cronin called for an integrated approach on the delivery of infrastructure to communities by the government, especially with regard to the building of new schools.
He said: "We need municipalities to come on board and build bridges. In some areas children are forced to walk for 10km to get to a school.
"Education can only happen in a context where there is proper infrastructure."
He urged traditional leaders, parents, teachers and pupils at the school to work together to ensure that the schools functioned properly.
About 49 new schools will be built by the department in the Eastern Cape this year as part of the government's plan to eradicate mud schools.
Buffalo City mayor Zukiswa Ncitha has also attacked Zuma's critics over the Nkandla affair.
Speaking at an ANC Women's League function at East London's Orient Theatre, Ncitha said the criticism was tantamount to abusing the president and an insult to South Africans.
"Let us stop abusing the president. The ANC doesn't just lead its members, but the entire South African society. [Everyone feels] insulted when the state president is mistreated," she said.
"The president must be treated with respect," Ncitha said to loud applause and ululation. – Additional reporting by Siya Miti