South African president to partly pay back cash used for home upgrade – Jacob Zuma hopes move will bring an end to two-year scandal that has plagued his government
South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, will pay back some of the public funds used to upgrade his private home, his office has said, in an attempt to end a two-year scandal that has plagued his government.
Thuli Madonsela, the country’s ombudswoman, ruled in 2014 that Zuma and his family had “benefited unduly” from the work on the rural residence of Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal, one of South Africa’s poorest areas.
The upgrades to the sprawling property, which covers the equivalent of eight and a half football pitches, included installation of a swimming pool – described as a fire-fighting facility – a chicken run, a cattle enclosure, an amphitheatre and a visitor centre.
Supporters said the improvements were essential to upgrade security and claimed contractors had inflated costs. However, the scandal – known as “Nkandla-gate” – has been one of the biggest to dog Zuma.
Zuma has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing over the upgrades, saying he paid for domestic improvements from family funds. Madonsela cleared him of misleading parliament, and inquiry by the police minister found no wrongdoing.
“To achieve an end to the drawn-out dispute … the president proposes that the determination of the amount he is to pay should be independently and impartially determined,” said a presidential statement.
The exact sum would be determined by the treasury and police ministry, it added.
A constitutional court hearing was due next week to consider an attempt by the opposition parties the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to force Zuma to refund the cash.
The upgrades were valued in 2014 at about 216m rand, then worth $24m or £17m. The presidential statement stressed that Zuma “remains critical of a number of factual aspects and legal conclusions” contained in the ombudsman’s damning report. Read more (Courtesy: theguardian.com)