President Zuma Agrees to Return State Money for Upgrades

NEW YORK | PRETORIA – A protracted battle over pricey upgrades to the country estate of President Jacob Zuma – charged to the national treasury – appears close to settlement.

In an about-face, President Zuma has agreed to pay back state money for some of the upgrades. The President was scheduled to appear in the week beginning February 9 before South Africa’s Constitutional Court on the issue.

Two years ago, an anti-corruption watchdog accused Zuma of having “benefited unduly” from the “excessive” $23 million dollar upgrades, which included a swimming pool, a cattle ranch, and an amphitheatre.

The renovations had been justified as essential to improve security. But South Africa’s public protector, Thuli Madonsela, called the security upgrades to Zuma’s private home in Nkandla as “unethical and unnecessary”.

Early February, the President offered to repay a portion of the money, but said he wanted the auditor-general and finance minister to determine the amount.

Members of the opposition, in particular the Economic Freedom Fighters lead by dissident Julius Malema, are not likely to be satisfied with the President’s latest offer. February 9 court appearance was about fighting corruption, they said.

“White supremacists are happy that this country is falling apart in the hands of black people,” Malema said at a recent rally. “We are not going to allow Zuma to make us another failure, another failed African state.”

Meanwhile, dozens of EFF supporters surrounded the Constitutional Court with t-shirts reading Pay Back the Money, a slogan which had also become a popular hashtag on Twitter. [International Press Syndicate – 9 February 2016]

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