South African police have launched an investigation into corruption allegations linked to President Jacob Zuma's $24m state-funded upgrade of his house, according to parliamentary papers.

In a written police response to lawmakers published on Monday, police confirmed that a probe into accusations that the leader misused public funds to refurbish his house in the rural village of Nkandla "has been initiated".

Zuma, who was re-elected in May, has insisted that he had no knowledge of the work on his home, including the construction of a swimming pool, private clinic and amphitheatre.

His government has insisted all the refurbishments were security related.

The issue has become a lightning rod for criticism of Zuma's administration, which is seen by many South Africans as tolerant of corruption and incompetence.

'Pay back the money'

South Africa's national assembly erupted in August with lawmakers chanting "pay back the money", demanding Zuma return the millions of dollars spent on his home.

Opposition leader, Mmusi Maimane, of the Democratic Alliance said "now the police must do their jobs".

Maimane and other opposition politicians had called for Zuma to be the subject of a criminal investigation over the issue, and have demanded he resign.

The public ombudsman Thuli Madonsela in March ruled that Zuma had "benefited unduly" from the construction, ordering him to pay part of the cost.

Zuma has faced both political and public wrath of the excessive spending, in a country battling rampant unemployment and inequality.

Source: Agencies