THE Mail & Guardian has blasted President Jacob Zuma's office for trying to limit the impact of its exposé on secret exansion plans for the president's family compound, according to a report in The Times.

The Presidency released a statement afternoon in which it downplayed the article, saying construction at the president's residence in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, was not funded by the government.

But M&G editor-in-chief Nic Dawes said the release of the statement just hours before the paper's deadline yesterday, robbed the newspaper of "exclusivity".

"The Presidency has damaged the relationship of trust that we had developed with officials there."

He said the Presidency had refused to comment on Tuesday after journalists discovered the construction while visiting Nkandla.

"We were able to establish details of the large new houses, clinic and helipad that are being built," Dawes said.

Vincent Magwenya, Zuma's spokesman, said the president's family had decided before the April national elections to extend the residence. State security services had a responsibility to provide suitable care for the head of state, he said.

"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.

Click here to read the full report, posted on